David Averill, PhD, is the chair of the Department of Basic Sciences at the Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine, where he is also professor of physiology. Dr. Averill has focused his professional interests on medical education and curricular development for the past 11 years. Prior to this he was a laboratory investigator who investigated the neuro-hormonal pathways involved in regulation of blood pressure and the development of hypertension.
Dr. Averill has taught students in undergraduate and graduate medical education, physical therapy and graduate programs at The Cleveland Clinic Foundation (1984-1992), Case-Western Reserve University School of Biomedical Engineering and Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine (1984-1992), Wake Forest University School of Medicine (1992-2006), Winston-Salem State University (2005 and 2006), Ross University School of Medicine (2006-2010) and most recently the Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine. He joined Geisinger Commonwealth as a founding faculty member in 2010 and has assumed various roles, educational and administrative, during his tenure at the Geisinger Commonwealth. These roles have included teaching professor of basic sciences with a focus on physiology, curriculum development during the early phase of the medical school, interim associate dean for curriculum (2013-2015), interim chair of the Department of Basic Sciences (2015), vice chair of the Department of Basic Sciences (2016-2017) and most recently the permanently appointed chair of the Department of Basic Sciences (2017). During the past year, he has also been a founding member of Geisinger Commonwealth’s newly created School of Graduate Studies. In addition to helping develop the organizational structure of the School of Graduate Studies, Dr. Averill is leading the effort for digitization of curricular programs in the graduate school.
Prior to turning his attention to medical education in 2006, Dr. Averill maintained an active research program (1984-2006) funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the American Heart Association. He is an expert on the roles of the autonomic nervous system and the renin-angiotensin system in the control of blood pressure. A significant outcome of his research activities was the discovery that angiotensin II, a product of the renin-angiotensin system, contributes to baseline blood pressure and development of hypertension via actions at selective brain sites involved in the regulation of sympathetic nerve activity.
Dr. Averill received a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Kent State University (1970) and a PhD in physiology and biophysics from the University of Washington (1981). He was supported as an NIH postdoctoral fellow to investigate the neural control of breathing in the laboratory of Dr. Albert Berger. Dr. Averill is a fellow of the American Heart Association. He has served in various capacities on grant review groups of the NIH and the American Heart Association and he has served as the elected chair and secretary/treasurer of the cardiovascular division of the American Society of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET). He is a recipient of the AAMC Medical Education Research Certificate. Dr. Averill is an author of 63 peer reviewed papers and 14 book chapters. He is an avid sailor and bicyclist and he has contributed to Odyssey of the Mind in various capacities.
The 2017 implementation of the U.S. Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) expects clinical facilities to optimize therapeutic outcome, maximize economic efficiency and improve patient satisfaction. One path to all of these goals is to develop and deploy diagnostic tools that are accurate, have broad diagnostic applicability and are ideally noninvasive and economic. Dr. Waite is evaluating whether analysis of the very small differences in time between each heartbeat, known as heart rate variability (HRV), can be developed into such a clinical tool. This is likely since HRV is a monitor of the autonomic nervous system, which controls many critical organ functions. Thus, Dr. Waite’s research implements technologies to extract HRV data from stored electrocardiograms of normal and diseased individuals to determine whether there are specific changes in HRVs values that signal specific diseases. Similar, ongoing studies in the area of Scranton, Pennsylvania, measure HRV of normal and ill volunteers and patients. This work will ultimately help determine the role of HRV analysis in healthcare.