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Neurobiology & Anatomy Chair Itzhak Fischer, PhD, to Step Down July 1

February 15, 2024

After a distinguished 33-year career at the College of Medicine and its predecessor institutions, Itzhak Fischer, PhD, is stepping down as chair of the Department of Neurobiology & Anatomy on July 1, 2024, though he will stay on as a tenured professor in the department. Dr. Fischer joined the faculty of the Medical College of Pennsylvania in 1991 from Harvard Medical School.

As department chair for the last 25 years, Dr. Fischer oversaw one of the largest and most renowned spinal cord research programs in the country. His NIH-supported research focuses on the development of cellular and molecular strategies to promote the regeneration and recovery of function in the injured spinal cord.

Itzhak Fischer, PhD

Itzhak Fischer, PhD

Dr. Fischer is an avid supporter of many community outreach programs, including a summer Neuroscience Camp, Medical Student for a Day for high school students, an anatomy course for advanced art students, and a unique group of summer remediation courses for medical students.

His long legacy at the College of Medicine is evident through the successful growth of the Department of Neurobiology & Anatomy. In just the past four years, departmental annual research expenditures increased by 34 percent, to $10.6M. Dr. Fischer led and sustained the creation of an exceptional culture for academic excellence and personal growth. He did this both by his wise guidance and by empowering faculty, trainees and staff to constantly refresh academic directions in a supportive environment. Dr. Fischer’s scholarship and mentorship are underscored by over 200 peer-reviewed papers and reviews, an h-index = 70, and dozens of trainees who now hold leadership positions in academia and industry.

In recognition of these efforts, he received the inaugural 2020 Daniel V. Schidlow, MD, Transformational Leader Award, which is presented to a faculty member exhibiting transformational leadership and the ability to inspire change and motivation for the College and all its members.

Rodrigo España, PhD

Rodrigo A. España, PhD

Rodrigo A. España, PhD, will serve as interim chair of the department. Dr. España is a tenured professor of neurobiology and anatomy and director of the Center for Systems and Behavioral Neuroscience. He came to the College of Medicine from Wake Forest University in 2011 as an assistant professor and rose through the ranks with a record of outstanding scholarship, service and mentorship. His lab’s research, supported by several awards from the NIH/National Institute on Drug Abuse, focuses on monoaminergic and hypocretinergic modulation of arousal-related processes including motivated behavior, substance abuse disorders, stress and sleep/wake function.

As he assumes his new role, Dr. España’s wealth of experience, years as an educator, service on professional committees, mentorship of students and colleagues, and national and international renown as a researcher will serve the department and College well.