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Aug. 11, 2016 - USA Mourns Loss of Dr. Herbert H. Winkler

winkler.jpgDr. Herbert H. Winkler, professor emeritus of microbiology and immunology and former vice-chair of microbiology and immunology at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, passed away on Aug. 2, 2016. He was 77.

Dr. Winkler, a native of Michigan, earned his bachelor of arts degree in biology from Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, and his Ph.D. in physiology from Harvard University in Boston. He completed post-doctoral work at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

During his undergraduate years, Dr. Winkler was a National Institutes of Health (NIH) Undergraduate Summer Fellow at the University of Michigan department of physiology, where he also served as a research assistant. From 1961-1966, Dr. Winkler was a National Science Foundation predoctoral fellow at Harvard University. During that time he also served as a Harvard University teaching fellow. From 1966-1968, Dr. Winkler served as a National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellow at the Johns Hopkins University department of physiological chemistry.

Prior to joining USA in 1978 as professor of microbiology and immunology, Dr. Winkler was both an assistant and associate professor of microbiology at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Va.

“Dr. Winkler was an outstanding scientist dedicated to the highest level of scientific rigor and the pursuit of new knowledge in his field of bacterial transport. He developed an international reputation for his research on Rickettsia,” said Dr. Samuel J. Strada, senior associate dean of the USA College of Medicine.  “Dr. Winkler maintained a record of continued National Institutes of Health research funding for more than three decades. This funding included a highly prestigious MERIT award from NIH, awarded to only a very small number of NIH-funded investigators.”

Dr. Winkler’s research interests focused on studying mechanisms of infection and growth by the intracellular bacterium Rickettsia prowazekii. Rickettsia prowazekii is a species of bacteria responsible for epidemic typhus, an infectious disease transmitted to humans by lice.

Dr. Winkler studied how rickettsiae enter the host cell, how they grow and divide in the cell, and how their metabolism has evolved. He performed extensive studies on the biochemistry of the rickettsial membrane and its transport systems.

“Dr. Winkler was one of the most intelligent people I have ever encountered.  He was an icon in our department and around the globe in the research field of Rickettsia,” said Dr. David O. Wood, professor and chair of the USA department of microbiology and immunology. “His work on rickettsial transport changed a fundamental paradigm for Rickettsia research and in doing so built a world-class research facility at USA that continues today.”

According to Dr. Wood, Dr. Winkler was also an excellent mentor for faculty, post docs and students.  “Having had the privilege of training under Dr. Winkler, I have personal knowledge of what an outstanding mentor he really was.  He demanded high-quality work and encouraged me and others to explore areas that had not been previously investigated,” said Dr. Wood.  “One of Dr. Winkler’s most impressive legacies is the many scientists he inspired and the important role he played in their development and success.”

The research initiated by Dr. Herbert Winkler helped to establish USA’s Select Agent Program centered on Rickettsia. This motivated colleagues to obtain NIH funds for the construction of a new research lab, the Laboratory of Infectious Diseases Building in USA’s Technology and Research Park. The building more than doubled the Biosafety Level 3 research capability at USA.

Dr. Winkler was one of five USA researchers in the institution’s history who received the prestigious NIH MERIT Award. While at USA he also served as vice-chair of microbiology and immunology from 1981 to 2006.

Dr. Winkler was a past President of the American Society for Rickettsiology and a past member of the Council Policy Committee of the American Society for Microbiology. He also previously was a member of the Editorial Board of Infection and Immunity.

In addition, Dr. Winkler received several honorary awards including Phi Beta Kappa membership, National Merit Scholar Award, Distinguished Faculty Service Award, Louise Lenoir Locke Distinguished Professor of Microbiology and Immunology, the P. R. Edwards Award from the Southeastern Branch of the American Society for Microbiology and the Gardner Award of the Alabama Academy of Science. He was awarded the National Institutes of Health Research Career Development Award.

Dr. Winkler served on the National Research Council Postdoctoral Fellowship Study Section, the Microbial Chemistry and the Tropical Medicine and Parasitology Study Sections of NIH, and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Board of Scientific Counselors. He served on numerous committees at USA, including the University Faculty Senate, LCME Accreditation Committee, Basic Science Seminar Series Committee, Faculty Assembly and the Research Advisory Committee.

Dr. Winkler was preceded in death by his parents and brothers, Robin Howard and Thomas Winkler.  He is survived by his wife of 55 years, Sue Ann Winkler; daughter, Elizabeth Winkler-Rogers (Raymond); sister, Mary Don Winkler; and brothers, Christopher Winkler (Sherri) and David Winkler.

The family will receive friends at the USA Mitchell Center John Counts Room on Aug. 19, 2016, from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Alzheimer’s Association.

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