April 20, 2021

Med school researcher receives international award for excellence

Aaron Phillips receives 2021 Arthur C. Guyton Award for Excellence in Integrative Physiology and Medicine
Aaron Phillips
Dr. Aaron Phillips is the recipient of the 2021 Arthur C. Guyton Award

Arthur C. Guyton’s name is likely familiar to medical students and physicians. The American physiologist, inventor and researcher is well known for his Textbook of Medical Physiology, which was first published in 1956 and has endured as the standard physiology text (now in its 14th edition) in medical schools around the world.

But what may not be as well known is that Guyton intended to be a cardiovascular surgeon, but  contracted polio in 1946, the final year of his residency training, and was partially paralyzed. Unable to perform surgeries, Guyton concentrated on physiology research and training and went on to become the head of the University of Mississippi Department. of Physiology and Biophysics.

There is a connection between this intriguing story and an early-career researcher at the Cumming School of Medicine.

Dr. Aaron Phillips, PhD, is the recipient of the 2021 Arthur C. Guyton Award for Excellence in Integrative Physiology and Medicine, the American Physiological Society’s flagship award for new investigators.

It’s a big win for the assistant professor, whose research interests include improving cardiovascular health and function for people with spinal cord injury.

According to Phillips, some of the impacts of spinal cord injury, such as blood pressure instability and mobility problems, mirror those found in individuals with polio.

“To be associated with Arthur C. Guyton’s name is an honour,” says Phillips. “It’s interesting that Dr. Guyton probably experienced some of the same cardiovascular and autonomic issues that individuals we work with who have had spinal cord injury experience. Polio often presents with conditions that overlap with spinal cord injury.”

Phillips joined the Libin Cardiovascular Institute in 2017 after completing two postdoctoral fellowships at the University of British Columbia. As a member of both the Libin and the Hotchkiss Brain Institute, he has published numerous studies and is a sought-after speaker at conferences.

Most recently, he co-led an international study showing spinal cord stimulators can bridge the body’s autonomic regulation system, after spinal cord injury to control blood pressure without medication. The findings were published in the world’s top science journal, Nature.  

He was also recognized as an Avenue Calgary Top 40 Under 40 recipient in 2020 for his ground-breaking research.

Winning this award places Phillips in an elite category of early-career researchers in his field, with just one recipient per year coming from the APS’s international membership of about 10,000.

The value of the award is not lost on Phillips, who says, “it is a privilege.”

Aaron Phillips is an assistant professor in the departments of Physiology & Pharmacology, Clinical Neurosciences and Cardiac Sciences and a member of the Libin Cardiovascular Institute and Hotchkiss Brain Institute at the Cumming School of Medicine. He is also a researcher with the RESTORE Network.