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Dartmouth Medical School Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center

Vital Signs

Investigator Insight

In this section, we highlight the human side of biomedical investigation, putting a few questions to a researcher at DMS-DHMC.

Anikó Náray-Fejes-Tóth, M.D.
Professor of Physiology

Náray-Fejes-Tóth, a molecular endocrinologist, studies the cellular and molecular mechanisms by which steroid hormones regulate kidney function and blood pressure. She has been at DMSfor 20 years.

How did you become interested in physiology?
While I was a medical student at Semmelweis University in Hungary, I interned (evenings, nights, and weekends) in a biochemistry lab and fell in love with science. Thus after obtaining my M.D., I returned to the lab and became a full-time researcher. The term physiology as we think of it today is much broader than most people would assume. It involves all aspects of "how things work," at the organism level as well as in cells and at the molecular level.

Can you describe your research?
My main interest is to find out how hormones—steroid hormones in particular—work at the physiological, cellular, and molecular levels. My latest research is to determine the role of aldosterone in a widespread condition called metabolic syndrome. It includes obesity, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and dyslipidemia. We are using transgenic and knockout mouse models to try to determine the mechanisms by which steroid hormones contribute to this group of diseases.

What is the greatest frustration in your work? And the greatest joy?
Frustration? When I have to spend time dealing with red tape. Joy? When experiments work and my students are becoming good scientists.

What famous person, living or dead, would you most like to meet?
Robert E. Lee. Having grown up in Europe, I am fascinated with American history, in particular the Civil War. Lee's giant and controversial figure stands out. If I could have a second pick, it would be Abraham Lincoln.

What's your favorite nonwork activity?
I love sailing, biking, hiking, skiing, gardening, cooking, baking—I wish I just had more time.

Do you always have a working hypothesis in the lab?
I always have hypotheses, but they are not always working out.

What advice would you offer to someone new in your field?
Do not do this unless you totally love it. The idea that science is a glamorous thing and you just have brilliant ideas and everything else falls in place is not true. It's hard work, and things work maybe 20 percent of the time, at best—but that 20 percent is great.

Finish this sentence: If I had more time I would . . .
I would do everything that I do now, except much slower, maybe at one third of the speed I am going now. I would also like to do some volunteer work.

What is a talent you wish you had?
Just one? Patience. If I could wish for two, I would also include playing the piano.

When you were very young what did you want to be?
Archaeologist, doctor, gymnast, doctor, chemist, doctor, in this order, if I remember. Well, at least some of it worked out!

Who has most inspired your work?
Géza, my husband. He is terrific.

What is your most memorable accomplishment?
My mom would never believe it, but I actually cook well. My friends always demand my Hungarian goulash; that's a hit no matter what. My colleagues might also mention some of our scientific discoveries, but in those I was lucky.

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