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Michael J. Joyner, M.D., FACSM


Michael J. Joyner, M.D., FACSM

Clinical Anesthesiologist and Professor | Mayo Clinic 

This month, we introduce you to an ACSM member who is helping lead efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic through the Expanded Access Program (EAP). Although it’s a slight detour from his primary research, Mike Joyner considers serving as the national principal investigator for the convalescent plasma project as the most important work he’s ever done. His statement speaks volumes about his passion to advance science and medicine and to help others.

Mike works as a clinical anesthesiologist and a professor of anesthesiology at the Mayo Clinic, where his laboratory has been funded continuously by the National Institutes of Health since 1993. His research focuses on how humans respond to various forms of physical and mental stress during activities such as exercise, hypoxia, standing up and blood loss. Mike and his team study how the nervous system regulates blood pressure, heart rate and metabolism in response to those forms of stress. Personally, he is interested in the role of integrative approaches in science as a powerful tool to integrate and critique data from reductionist approaches.

Mike joined ACSM nearly 40 years ago. He regularly attends the Integrative Physiology of Exercise Conference, the ACSM Annual Meeting and regional chapter meetings. He delivered the Joseph B. Wolffe lecture during the 2004 ACSM Annual Meeting and received the prestigious Citation Award in 2009, one of the highest honors bestowed by ACSM. Mike has also served on the ACSM Board of Trustees, Research Advisory Committee and Task Force on Science Coordination.

ACSM staff recently asked Mike a series of questions to learn more about what prompted him to enter the field, his current research and why he values ACSM membership.

  • What is your current area of research?

I am interested in oxygen transport in humans. For many years that was mostly about the control of skeletal muscle blood flow. More recently it has focused on issues related to how hemoglobin binds to oxygen and how this influences responses to hypoxia at rest and during exercise. I am also interested in sex differences in blood pressure regulation, how humans respond to blood loss and the physiology of world records. With the COVID-19 crisis I have taken a detour and am the national PI on the convalescent plasma project.

  • Why did you choose this area of research?

In 1977 when I was 19, Eddie Coyle recruited me to be a subject in Pete Farrell’s Ph.D. project on the lactate threshold and distance running performance. This was at the University of Arizona, and Dr. Jack Wilmore ran the lab there. I caught the bug immediately and started hanging around the lab.

  • What have been the significant outcomes of your research?
  • Ideas about the limits of human performance and the two-hour marathon
  • Exploring the role of nitric oxide in the regulation of muscle and skin blood flow
  • Exploring how sex and age interact to influence blood pressure regulation in humans
  • The most recent project on convalescent plasma, and the treatment of COVID-19 is by far the most important thing I have ever done.
  • What advice do you have for students or professionals entering the field?

Follow your curiosity and ask questions.  

  • How has ACSM membership helped you?

It’s provided exposure to scientific ideas and outstanding colleagues and, when I was younger, seeing how top-notch scientists considered key research questions. 

  • What's one thing people would be surprised to know about you?

I was once a pretty good French Horn player. 

  • Anything else you'd like to add?

Jack Wilmore, John Holloszy and John Shepherd (all deceased) were remarkable teachers for me. Marlys Witte, a senior member of the faculty at the University of Arizona Medical School, runs a course on ignorance and question framing.  I took the course in the middle 80’s, and it has really helped me frame things since that time.

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