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The Houston Endowed Chair in Pre-medicine is held by Dr. David R. Canning, associate professor of biology. Dr. Canning was appointed to the Dr. Hugh L. and Hontas K. Houston Endowed Professorship in Pre-Medicine in August 2010. Dr. Canning joined the Department of Biological Sciences at Murray State University in 1997.
Dr. Canning’s research expertise is in the area of stem cell biology, a highly pertinent topic related to medical sciences. Aspects of his past research have been published in high-impact journals, including Science, Nature, Experimental Neurology and Developmental Dynamics, demonstrating his capability to perform and publish research at the highest level. He has been successful at funding his research program at Murray State University with multiple federal grants from the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Kentucky EPSCOR and several private foundations. Dr. Canning has been a reviewer for the journal Development and several grant agencies including the Wellcome Trust (United Kingdom). Dr. Canning has also been a member of the editorial board for the journal Frontiers in Bioscience and a member of the Advisory Board of the Kentucky Biomedical Research Infrastructure Network. He has also collaborated with several faculty at Murray State University to obtain research and curriculum development funding, including course, curriculum and laboratory instrumentation grants from the National Science Foundation. Dr. Canning has also formed collaborations across the state with faculty at the state medical schools and regional universities, including the Center for Biomedical Research Excellence in Spinal Cord Regeneration and also the Kentucky Biomedical Research Infrastructure Network which led to funding of several College of Science, Engineering and Technology faculty research projects and research infrastructure at Murray State University.
Dr. Canning has an ongoing research program aimed at elucidating the molecular mechanisms controlling neural stem cell differentiation. Working with both undergraduate and graduate students, Dr. Canning’s research over the last year has resulted in the identification of several molecular factors that inhibit neural stem cells from differentiating into neurons. His laboratory has finally identified a handful of genes that have delayed expression patterns relative due to extracellular molecules that surround stem cells in the embryo. Some of this work has been presented at conferences by students working in his lab and is in the revision phase to be published in the journal Developmental Dynamics.
Dr. Canning has carried a full teaching load in the Department of Biological Sciences over the last academic year. Along with teaching introductory courses, he teaches courses in the area of cell and molecular biology at both the undergraduate and graduate level.
Over the last year, Dr. Canning has also led an initiative to reinvigorate the pre-medicine, pre-dentistry and related pre-health professional programs at Murray State University. Most significantly, Dr. Canning has helped to create the PreHealth Professional Program at Murray State University. This organization has adopted the mission to assist students in preparing for entrance to health related professional schools. The primary focus of the program is to assist students working on a career path to medical school, dental school or optometry school. However, the program also incorporates students seeking entrance to other health related professional schools. The PreHealth Professional Program provides students with committee evaluations, advising sessions, internships and coordinates review sessions for the MCAT and DAT professional exams. As part of the PreHealth Professional Program, Dr. Canning is acting as co-advisor to the 126 member, student run pre-professional club with the Logan Endowed Chair (Dr. Ricky Cox). The club has had many activities providing pre-health students various types of pre-health professional information and experiences. This past year, admission officers and assistant deans from the University of Kentucky and University of Louisville Colleges/Schools of Medicine and Dentistry visited with the student club to discuss aspects of their programs and the Rural Physician Leadership Program in western Kentucky. The PHP club also had speakers on rural practice, changes in health care law at the Federal level, and heard from representatives of the Purchase Area Health Education Center.
Dr. Canning has made efforts to facilitate recruitment of students into the PHP program at Murray State University. The implementation of the new PreHealth Professional Program website not only acts as an information resource for Murray State students but has also become an initial point of contact for prospective students, resulting in over 500 unique information requests from potential students from eight different states. Dr. Canning has personally interviewed twenty-four prospective pre-med students over the last year. In addition, Dr. Canning has assumed the position as the Murray State University representative to the American Association of Medical Schools (AMCAS) and participated in the Annual Meeting of Kentucky Health Professional Advisors at the University of Kentucky.
This last year Dr. Canning also worked with the Dean of the College of Science, Engineering and Technology to set up the new “Jones Scholars” initiative. Supported by a generous endowment from Dr. Jesse Jones, two initial scholarships were awarded this past year. Dr. Canning is acting as coordinator for scholarship awardees who will be working as academic interns with faculty mentors in the College. This new scholarship program will provide opportunities for students to gain actual work experience toward their chosen academic career.