By Anne Riker Garlington
The University of Florida Foundation has awarded UF College of Public Health and Health Professions faculty member Gordon Mitchell, Ph.D., one of two UF Foundation Term Professorships for 2023-24. The three-year professorship, which comes with a $25,000 award, is presented in support of the university’s preeminence goals to further advance faculty research efforts.
Mitchell, a professor in the UF PHHP department of physical therapy and deputy director of UF’s McKnight Brain Institute, is considered a pioneer in the study of neuroplasticity in respiratory systems, and more recently, motor systems, in patients who have illness or injury that affects their ability to breathe independently.
“Dr. Mitchell is arguably the world’s foremost expert on the topic of neuroplasticity and the neural control of breathing,” said award nominator Beth Virnig, Ph.D., M.P.H., dean of the College of Public Health and Health Professions.
Over the last 30 years, Mitchell’s research group has transformed the understanding of how the neural networks that control breathing respond to environmental challenges or injury.
Mitchell has been recognized for both his research and teaching accomplishments, including a National Institutes of Health MERIT Award, the Norden Distinguished Teacher Award, the Pfizer Research Award on multiple occasions, the Steenbock Professorship for Behavioral and Neural Science, and distinguished lectureships from the Society for Neuroscience, American Physiological Society, Association of Chairs of Departments of Physiology, the American Spinal Injury Association, and the Oxford Conference for Modeling and the Control of Breathing.
Mitchell’s research program has been continuously funded by NIH since 1983 (among other funding agencies). Over the last four decades, he has published 315 manuscripts in major, peer-reviewed scientific journals, with over 20,000 citations of his work.
Mitchell joined the University of Florida in 2015 as a part of UF’s preeminence initiative. He founded and continues to direct the UF Breathing Research and Therapeutics Center, or UF BREATHE, as well as an NIH-funded graduate and postdoctoral T32 training program with the same name.
A major focus of BREATHE is to understand and treat impaired breathing and airway defense (swallowing and cough function) caused by neuromuscular injury or disease. Mitchell currently leads three research projects funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, with findings directly informing clinical trials of oxygen therapy to restore breathing ability.
Mitchell has mentored over 30 postdoctoral trainees, supervised over 30 graduate students, and served on over 60 additional graduate thesis committees. His trainees have been highly successful, with many winning awards from national or international organizations for research excellence. Over 30 former trainees are now faculty at academic institutions, many with extramurally funded research programs.
“It has been a tremendous honor to be a part of the UF community for the past nine years,” Mitchell said. “My journey here has been marked by impactful collaborations with exceptional colleagues, the opportunity to establish a truly unique center with dedicated members, and a strong foundation for advancing our research into clinical translation. I am thankful to Dean Virnig for the nomination and to the UF Foundation for bestowing this award. Go Gators!”
The UF Foundation’s Preeminence Term Professorship program was created in 2013 to support UF’s preeminence goals and invest in faculty members whose work is transforming lives. Faculty members may receive the award once during the program’s lifetime. Mitchell will be formally recognized and presented with the award at the UF Foundation ceremony on Friday, November 3.