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Dr. Ralph A. Giannella is the Mark Brown Professor of Medicine and the Director of the Division of Digestive Diseases, University of Cincinnati Medical Center, Cincinnati, USA, a position he has held for the past 20 years. He trained in gastroenterology at the Mallory/Thorndike Gastroenterology Laboratories at the Boston City Hospital and subsequently at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, Washington DC.
For the past 30 years, Dr. Giannella has conducted research in the areas of intestinal infections, foodborne illnesses, and diarrheal disorders. He has published more than 100 original publications, 50 textbook chapters, and 90 abstracts. He is a widely sought lecturer in these subjects and frequently serves as a visiting professor to many academic institutions.
Dr. Giannella has been a member of the editorial boards of the journals Gastroenterology, Digestive Diseases and Sciences, and the American Journal of Physiology. He also served a 5-year term as associate editor of Gastroenterology. He has been elected to membership in the American Society for Clinical Investigation (ASCI) and the the Association of American Physicians (AAP).
Dr. Giannella is Past-President of the Gastroenterology Research Group, on the board of directors of the American Digestive Health Foundation, and is the immediate Past-President of the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA).
- What made you decide to become a gastroenterologist?
- As a medical student at The Albany Medical College of Union University, I was fortunate to be exposed to an inspirational and enthusiastic teacher and clinician, Dr. John Balint. He showed me the excitement of gastroenterology, the joy of acquiring new knowledge and of being a teacher. His example inspired me to choose gastroenterology and to seek a career in academe.
- Who was the teacher you admired the most?
- The aforementioned Dr. John Balint.
- Which research paper influenced you the most?
- When I was a fellow in gastroenterology I encountered a patient with salmonellosis who had voluminous diarrhea of cholera-like proportions. I wondered why? He was achlorhydric. A paper by Garrod LP: A study of the bactericidal power of hydrochloric acid and of gastric juice. St Bart's Hosp Rep 72: 145-167, 1939, led me to my first research studies.
- What is the most important fact that you have discovered?
- In my studies of mechanisms of salmonella diarrhea, I suggested that the intestinal inflammatory reaction was responsible for intestinal secretion. A second discovery involved purifying and defining E. coli heat-stable enterotoxin and establishing that a receptor for this toxin existed on the surface of enterocytes.
- What is your unfulfilled ambition?
- To be an opera singer or a virtuoso violinist. I have no talent for either. But what if?
- How do you relax?
- I love travel, fine restaurants, attending the opera and symphony, and reading history.
- What is your favorite sport?
- I enjoy playing golf with friends. My other fantasy is to be a "scratch" golfer.
- What is your best place in the world?
- Italy! Almost any part of it. A very close second is Spain. Both countries are historically rich, have wonderful ancient architecture, warm and friendly people and wonderful food.
- What is your favorite film?
- "Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow" by Vittorio De Sica. It captures the Neapolitan spirit and reminds me of my family.
- What is your best electronic 'toy'?
- My computer and the Internet. I am fascinated by the Internet and the world it makes available.