Piero P. Foà, Emeritus Professor of Physiology, was born in Turin, Italy, and received his M.D. and Sc.D. (Chemistry) from the University of Milan1934 and 1938 respectively. In 1939, Dr. Foà cam to the United States and worked as a Research Fellow in the Department of Physiology at Yale University, then in the Departments of Surgery and Medicine at the University of Michigan. In Ann Arbor, his laboratory assistant, Naomi, then a Biochemistry graduate student, became his wife. In 1944, Foà was appointed Professor in the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology of the Chicago Medical School, where he also directed the Endocrine and Metabolic Clinic. In 1962, he became Chairman of the newly created Department of Research at Sinai Hospital of Detroit and Professor in the Department of Physiology at Wayne State University School of Medicine. He has lectured extensively in North and South America, Europe and Japan and served as Visiting Professor at the Universities of Cagliari, Milano, Padova, Parma and Pavia, Italy.
Dr. Foà was member of the American Physiological Society, the Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine, the Endocrine Society, the American Diabetes Association, the American Chemical Society, Sigma Xi, and the Detroit Physiological Society. He was a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and honorary member of the Venezuelan Society for the Advancement of Science, the Japan Endocrine Society, and the Società Italiana di Biologia Sperimentale.
Dr. Foà has received numerous awards; among them the Gold Medal for one of the five best M.D. theses in Italy; the Rizzi Fellowship of the Italian Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine; the Illinois State Medical Society Silver Medal, the Chicago Medical School Parker award, the American Medical Association Hektoen Gold Medal, and the following awards from Wayne State University: election to the Academy of Scholars, the Lamp (sophomore class teaching award), the President's Award for Excellence in Teaching, the Distinguished Service Award; the Sigma Xi Faculty Research Award; the Laurence Weiner Award. An endowed Piero P. Foà Lectureship in Endocrinology was established in 1999. He has published 4 books and over 250 research articles and reviews and has edited or coedited 15 books. He has worked extensively on the physiology of the endocrine pancreas, providing the first evidence that glucose is a major stimulant on insulin secretion and , while and increase in the concentration of blood glucose stimulates the secretion of insulin, a decrease inhibits it and, in addition, stimulates the secretion of a blood-sugar raising factor (glucagon by the pancreas. Subsequent experiments contributed substantially to the establishment of glucagon as a "second pancreatic hormone". The serendipitous discovery that the removal of the pancreas resulted in a marked elevation of circulating glucagon and glucagon-like immunoreactants (GLI) gave impetus to much research work on the possible role of glucagon in the pathogenesis of diabetes and hypoglycmia and on the nature and physiologic role of pancreatic and extrapancreatic glucagon-like peptides in the maintenance of blood glucose and nutrient homeostasis and in the physiology of the "entero-insular axis", whereby a meal-induced secretion of GLI by the small intestines stimulates the secretion of insulin necessary for the utilization of the ingested nutrients.
More than 30 former graduate, post-graduate students and research fellows, working in the United States, Canada, Italy, Japan, Nigeria, Spain and Switzerland continue the research begun in Foà's laboratory. Many of them became department Chairs and established teaching and research programs of their own.
Dr. Foà became Professor Emeritus in 1982, but continued to serve as a part-time Professor of Physiology. His interests included serving as a science mentor in the public schools, writing a family history and participating in the activities of the Dante Alighieri Society, an Italian cultural organization of which he was a past president.
Wayne State University