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July 19, 2013 - Dr. Townsley Receives ATS Leadership Award

Dr. Mary Townsley, professor of physiology and internal medicine at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, recently received the 2013 Leadership Award from the Pulmonary Circulation Assembly of the American Thoracic Society (ATS).

Dr. Townsley was selected for the award, which was presented at the annual ATS meeting in Philadelphia, based on her decades of leadership and devoted service to the pulmonary circulation research community. “I was rather stunned,” Dr. Townsley said of receiving the award. “It’s quite an honor to be recognized by a group like the American Thoracic Society.”

Dr. Townsley serves on the Planning Committee for the ATS Pulmonary Circulation Assembly and has served on the Organizing Committee for the Grover Conference, an international conference on lung vascular biology. In addition, she has chaired peer-review study sections for lung biology, the United Peer Review Steering Committee, and the Council on Cardiopulmonary, Critical Care, Perioperative and Resuscitation, all for the American Heart Association (AHA).

Dr. Townsley has been a member of the USA College of Medicine faculty since 1988 and also serves as associate dean of faculty affairs. She directs training programs for the USA Center for Lung Biology, has served as director of the graduate program at USA, and has organized the last two LCME accreditation processes at the USA College of Medicine.

Dr. Townsley said her major influence was her postdoctoral mentor, USA emeritus professor of physiology Dr. Aubrey Taylor. Dr. Taylor served as president of the American Physiology Society, and he chaired the AHA Cardiopulmonary Council.

“I learned a great deal of science from him, and my work ethic was bolstered by his enthusiasm,” she said. “He was a leader in our institution and also in our professional societies."

Dr. Townsley credits Dr. Taylor for introducing her to the AHA leadership group, which she later came to chair. “He was one to really get involved, and I think I learned the value of that from him.”

Dr. Townsley said getting involved in professional societies is an important aspect for all professionals. “It’s not only a way to network,” she said, “but also a way to contribute to the organization that provides infrastructure for our work.”

With mentorship being crucial to her success, Dr. Townsley believes encouragement and strong leadership is vital. “We need leaders. If we were all followers we wouldn’t get very far, would we?” she said. “I think some people have a knack for leadership, some people like the process, and some people like the bigger picture that leadership roles offer.”

To learn more about the American Thoracic Society, visit

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