University of Virginia School of Medicine
Charlottesville, VA, USA
Research interests: epididymis cell biology and testis pathology
Terry T. Turner received his bachelor's degree from the University of Georgia in 1967. After a period of army service he returned to the University for graduate school in 1970 completing his Ph.D. in 1974. After that, he went for post-doctoral training at the University of Texas Medical School at San Antonio, Texas and in 1976 took a faculty position at the University of Virginia School of Medicine. There he pursued his research interest in testicular pathophysiology and epididymal biology and in 1991 was promoted to the rank of Professor in Urology and in Cell Biology. He became Professor Emeritus in 2008. He is a former president of the American Society of Andrology and currently serves both as a member of the organizing committee of the quadrennial International Conference on the Epididymis and as a member of the Board of Directors of the Foundation for Male Contraception.
Q: How was your interest in field of andrology developed?
Dr. Turner: In graduate school I was introduced to the puzzle of what role the epididymis plays in sperm maturation. This led to an interest in the intraluminal microenvironment(s) to which the sperm are exposed as they transit the epdidiymis and how that microenvironment is regulated. I began a career in urology research because of this interest in the epididymis and its role in male fertility; from there I became aware that many issues in male infertility remain uninvestigated, especially with regard to clinical conditions thought to induce testicular dysfunction. This stimulated a line of research in the mechanisms by which conditions such as varicocele, cryptorchidism, and testicular torsion induce testicular pathology.
Q: Tell us about the work that you are most proud of.
Dr. Turner: This is like asking which child you love the most! I will give a general response highlighting three areas in no particular order: 1) a line of research on the epididymis showing directly that maintenance of the intraluminal microenvironment requires non-androgen testicular products, e.g. ABP and, further, that local factors within the epididymis also are important for the regulation of gene expression and epithelial function, much of which occurs in an intraregional, segmental fashion; 2) a line of research in dog and rat models showing that, contrary to popular teaching, the effects of varicocele are not due to reduced testicular blood flow and not due to reflux down the spermatic vein, but instead are caused by increased testicular blood flow, increased intratesticular temperature and reduced intratesticular androgen concentrations; 3) a line of research showing that the permanent loss of spermatogenesis induced by testicular torsion is really an ischemia/reperfusion injury inducing intratesticular oxidative stress and subsequent germ cell-specific apoptosis. Further, testicular salvage can be affected by infusion of oxygen radical inhibitors prior to the re-establishment of blood flow.
Q: Describe your typical day at work.
Dr. Turner: I would arrive at my lab at or around 0730 and begin work either with an experiment, writing a paper or grant application, or preparing for a talk, teaching, or a lab meeting (lab meeting Mondays at 0800). During the first twenty years of my career I was in the lab almost every day doing experiments along with my post-docs and laboratory technicians; during the last ten years I spent far more time in the office writing grants, papers, etc., guiding post-docs, and overseeing the work of the lab more generally. My time in the lab was more restricted to those times when a particular technical expertise was needed to do an experiment. From 1200-1300 I would take lunch in a small meeting room next to my lab where all those interested from my lab and others would gather to eat and talk about things other than science. I would continue work through the afternoon, sometimes attending a seminar or urology case conference, until 1730-1800 hrs.
Q: What is the key to success in the field of andrology, given the impact of recession/lack of grants?
Dr. Turner: Novel questions about important issues convincingly explained and accompanied by interesting preliminary data. A supporting key is networking, getting to know other scientists in the field so they know you and your work.
Q: What has been the impact of the ASA membership in your career?
Dr. Turner: The ASA has been a meeting that is almost unique in its ability to put clinicians and basic scientists together to exchange information and to potentially establish collaborations that help move research from the laboratory to the human. It informs basic scientists about clinical issues they might never have heard of and informs clinicians about basic science issues they might never have heard of. The meeting has been an important avenue the presentation for my laboratory research since much of it has had direct relation to human clinical issues.
Q: One advice you would like to give to students entering in this field.
Dr. Turner: Never believe you can only do the research you began with. You are a scientist. If you are well trained, your skills and ability to acquire knowledge open many vistas. You are able to follow any promising one(s) that gains your true interest.
Q: Any other comments.
Dr. Turner: Work cheerfully with the intent of doing more than expected.
Let your light shine, but gently.
Do not speak faster than you can think.