Richard D. Bukoski, PhD
Richard Bukoski, PhD, a member of the American Physiological Society since 1980, died of natural causes on March 2, 2004. He is survived by his wife Heidi, his parents, and his four children, Conrad, Jacob, Isaac, and Sarah-Anne. At the time of his death, Dick was Professor of Biology and director of the Cardiovascular Disease Research Program at the Biomedical, Biotechnology Research Institute at North Carolina Central University (NCCU), Durham.
Dr Bukoski’s research, which has been supported by National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding since 1988, had the long-range goal of understanding the molecular mechanisms that link whole animal Ca2+ homeostasis with vascular function. Among his accomplishments were description of the effects of 1,25 (OH)2 vitamin D3 and noncalcemic analogues of the secosteroid on vascular smooth muscle phenotype, intracellular Ca2+ metabolism, and contractility; the demonstration of a Ca2+-activated, perivascular sensory nerve dependent vasodilator system in isolated arteries; the finding that sensory nerves express a Ca2+ sensing receptor that is homologous with that initially described in the parathyroid gland; and providing the first evidence that an endocannabinoid-like ligand may serve as the transmitter that is released from perivascular nerves in response to elevation of extracellular Ca2+. More recently, his group found that dorsal root ganglion calcium sensing receptor cDNA arises from tissue-specific alternative splicing of a single gene, that its amino acid sequence is homologous to other known calcium sensing receptors, and that it undergoes differential posttranslational processing relative to the thyroparathyroid calcium sensing receptor and is functionally active when transfected into a human-derived cell line. The goal was to understand the relationship between dietary calcium and blood pressure.
Dick took his current position to improve the advanced biomedical science education of African Americans as director of a National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute–funded initiative. He left a tenured position (Professor of Medicine) at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston to develop a program to train African American medical scientists. He was able to attract and nurture a number of young trainees and placed them in outstanding graduate programs at Johns Hopkins, Duke, and the University of North Carolina. In addition, he has had a major role in establishing the infrastructure for biomedical research at NCCU, a traditionally African American university, where he established the first biomedical research program. This involved building from the ground up: establishing the infrastructure for animal research, initiating the J-1 visa program for international scientists, helping to reactivate university radiation safety guidelines, and equipping major core facilities needed for modern biomedical research. His leadership, creativity, and cooperation at NCCU have been the cornerstone of the success of this program and will be sorely missed.
Before going to NCCU, he led research groups at the Oregon Health Sciences University and at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. It was in Oregon, when working with David McCarron, that he developed his interest in the role of dietary calcium in hypertension. In Galveston he expanded this work and developed his interest in the neuronal control of vascular function in collaboration with Donald DiPette.
Dr Bukoski received his undergraduate degree from Mount Union College, Alliance, Ohio, and his PhD from Baylor College of Medicine under the guidance of Julius Allen, working on the sodium pump in vascular smooth muscle. He did postdoctoral work at Michigan State University with Harvey Sparks, where he studied the regulation of adenosine formation by mitochondria.
As a scientist, Dick was both a leader and a team player. In either role, he convinced with logic, a candid communication style, and evident concern for the other person. He was not afraid of hard work, but knew better than to limit his interests to his own research. He contributed to the scientific community by serving on review panels for both the NIH and American Heart Association and was a member of the Hypertension Council of the American Heart Association and the Editorial Board of Hypertension.
He participated in the broader community as well as the scientific community. For example, he was Scoutmaster of the Year in Galveston. He loved the outdoors, especially the Oregon Coast, the Outer Banks, and Galveston Bay. Dick was a good friend and a great family man. He was devoted to Heidi and his 4 children.
Dick gave much to society through his research and teaching, his special efforts to bring more African Americans into the mainstream of science, and through his devotion to his family and community. We regret that he did not have more time among us.