The Pancreas and Me

My Life as a Biomedical Scientist

Subjects: Biography & Autobiography, Personal Memoirs, Medical
Imprint: Maize Books
Open Access : 9781607858232, 316 pages, 84 color photographs, 6 x 9, July 2023
Paperback : 9781607858218, 316 pages, 84 color photographs, 6 x 9, July 2023
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A poignant story that covers life, education, and career of leading biomedical scientist, John A. Wiliams, whose research focused on the exocrine pancreas


This is a personal story that weaves together the personal and professional aspects of a rewarding life in biomedical research. The book describes the education and career of John A. Williams, a leading biomedical scientist whose research focused on the exocrine pancreas and its function. It is arranged chronologically and covers Dr. Williams’ education, how he developed his interest in the pancreas, and how research on the pancreas developed over his 50 year career. It also provides insight into the state of American biomedical education, medical schools, and how research is funded and published. 

As a professor, his research was on the exocrine pancreas, its secretion of digestive enzymes, and regulation by gastrointestinal hormones. He published over 400 papers and trained over 60 graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. Dr Williams served as President of two scientific societies, the American Pancreatic Association and the American Physiological Society, and as Editor of four journals. He also founded the Pancreapedia, an open access knowledgbase about the exocrine pancreas. In addition, he taught medical and graduate students with a focus on gastrointestinal function.

While a medical student, John married his life partner, Christa Smith, and they have been together 57 years raising two children and helping with four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. John has a lifetime interest in outdoor activities, nature, and conservation. For the last decade he has been an advocate for reducing the use of fossil fuels. He is also active in the Ann Arbor Friends meeting.

Dr. John A. Williams was born in Iowa in 1941, moved to the state of Washington as a child, and grew up in Ellensburg. He attended Central Washington State College and then the University of Washington where he graduated in 1968 with MD and PhD (Physiology and Biophysics) degrees. Having decided to become a biomedical scientist, he carried out postdoctoral research at the University of Utah, the National Institutes of Health, and the University of Cambridge in the UK. In 1973, he joined the faculty of the University of California in San Francisco (UCSF) becoming Professor and Vice-Chair of Physiology. In 1987, he moved to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor where he served as Chair of the Physiology department for over 20 years and as Professor of Physiology and Medicine until he retired in 2020.