Crowder named Brown Professor in Anesthesiology

C. Michael Crowder, M.D., Ph.D., has been named the Dr. Seymour and Rose T. Brown Professor in Anesthesiology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. The new appointment was announced by Washington University Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton and by Larry J. Shapiro, M.D., executive vice chancellor for medical affairs and dean of the School of Medicine.

“Dr. and Mrs. Brown’s support has been very important to the University and to the School of Medicine,” Wrighton said. “Their generosity is advancing the outstanding research of some of our leading scientists.”

Crowder’s research involves identifying the targets of general anesthetics as well as looking for genes that control survival and adaptation to cellular injury from low oxygen (hypoxia). In conditions such as stroke and heart attack, hypoxia often damages or kills cells. Crowder is working to learn more about the mechanisms that make cells either vulnerable to hypoxia or resistant to it.

“Mike Crowder is one of the leading physician-scientists in anesthesia research,” Shapiro said. “His work in the model organism C. elegans has helped elucidate genetic and cellular mechanisms in those microscopic worms that also are important in human disease, and his outstanding work with medical students and fellows has helped to advance the School’s educational mission. He is clearly deserving of this honor.”

The Brown professorship was established in memory of Rose Brown’s husband, Seymour Brown, M.D., and in honor of Alex S. Evers, M.D., the Henry Elliot Mallinckrodt Professor and head of the Department of Anesthesiology. The Browns married in 1941 and were active in the community throughout their marriage, making many generous philanthropic contributions.

“Rose Brown first became involved with the University more than 70 years ago, and the family connections to the Department of Anesthesiology extend back almost that far,” Evers said. “This endowment allows us to more fully support Mike Crowder’s major contributions in hypoxia research and to better understanding how general anesthetics exert their effects, work that helps enhance and maintain our department’s position as a leader in anesthesiology research.”

Rose Brown is a native St. Louisan who spent her childhood in southern Illinois before returning to St. Louis at age 16. She is an alumna of Soldan High School and graduated from Washington University in 1936 with a bachelor’s degree in education and biology. After college, she served on the editorial staff of the C.V. Mosby Co. editing medical books and journals. She befriended many doctors through this work, and one of those friends introduced her to Seymour Brown.

Seymour Brown, M.D., also a native St. Louisan and a graduate of both Washington University and its School of Medicine, returned to St. Louis after decorated service in World War II and became one of the first full-time anesthesiologists in St. Louis and an acknowledged pioneer of that specialty. In more than 40 years as chief of anesthesiology at St. John’s Mercy Hospital, he established, among other innovations, post-anesthetic recovery areas, general intensive-care areas and one-day surgical, therapeutic and diagnostic procedure units.

Brown also was on the clinical teaching faculty of Saint Louis University School of Medicine for more than three decades, and he served as president of the Missouri State Society of Anesthesiology, as well as a founding member and president of the St. Louis Society of Anesthesiology.

Over the years, the Browns contributed to medical student scholarships and have made other endowments. In addition to the Dr. Seymour and Rose T. Brown Professorship in Anesthesiology, they also established the Seymour Brown, M.D. and Rose Tropp Brown Endowment for Research in the Division of Gastroenterology, in memory of their son Alvin R. Brown, M.D., who completed his residency in gastroenterology at the School of Medicine and passed away in 2000. Another son, Don, is an attorney who lives in Maryland with his wife and daughter. The Browns had been married for 65 years when Seymour Brown passed away in 2006.

Crowder is chief of the Anesthesiology Research Unit at the School of Medicine. He earned a bachelor’s degree, with honors, in chemistry from Hendrix College in Conway, Ark. His medical and doctorate degrees are from Washington University. He completed a residency in anesthesiology at the University of Washington in Seattle before returning in 1993 as a postdoctoral fellow in molecular genetics and an instructor in anesthesiology. In addition to research, he is an attending anesthesiologist at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, where he cares primarily for patients undergoing neurosurgical procedures. He also is a faculty member at the University’s Hope Center for Neurological Disorders.

“I am honored and grateful for this recognition, which helps to recognize and boost the entire research effort in our department,” Crowder said. “We are blessed with outstanding scientists making important advancements in the understanding of nerve signaling, pain biology and cell death from hypoxia and infection. I am proud to be part of this exciting research effort.”

Crowder is an author of more than 90 publications, and he has lectured nationally and internationally. He has trained numerous students and fellows. He is active in many professional societies and organizations, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Society of Anesthesiologists and the Society for Neuroscience.

He is an associate editor for Anesthesiology and reviews manuscripts for 18 other journals. He is a recipient of the Public Health Service National Research Service Award. He also received the Philip Needleman Pharmacology Prize in 1989. He has received awards and funding from the American Heart Association and the McKnight Foundation, and his studies on anesthesia mechanisms and hypoxic injury have been funded continuously by the National Institutes of Health since 1997.

Washington University School of Medicine’s 2,100 employed and volunteer faculty physicians also are the medical staff of Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s Hospitals. The School of Medicine is one of the leading medical research, teaching, and patient care institutions in the nation, currently ranked third in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Through its affiliations with Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s Hospitals, the School of Medicine is linked to BJC HealthCare.