DIVISION OF BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES
OFFICE OF THE CHAIR -
October 16, 2019
With great sadness we announce the passing of our great friend and colleague George Fortes, Associate Professor Emeritus in the Division of Biological Sciences.
P.A. George Fortes (1944 - 2019) received his M.D. from the Universidad Autonoma de México and his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania before joining the Biology Department at UC San Diego as an assistant professor in 1972. Trained as a biophysicist, George developed an early fascination with and love for the sodium-potassium pump that transports these ions across the cell membrane in all animal cells. Important early discoveries included his development of specific fluorescent probes labeling different pump subunits. These probes enabled characterization of pump structure, phosphorylation, and the kinetics of pharmacological blockade. His pioneering study of the inhibition of (Na,K)-ATPase by hydrostatic pressure led to the conclusion that increased pressure decreases the membrane fluidity which hinders conformational transitions associated with rate-limiting steps of the pump’s action. This research led on to productive collaborations with colleagues at Scripps Institution of Oceanography interested in understanding the functions of proteins in organisms at great ocean depths.
In later years George became increasingly committed to his teaching and often had hundreds of students in his classes. He was best known for his courses in mammalian and human physiology – taught in several sections – and in endocrinology. He provided links to articles, videos, and other interesting information relevant to the course subjects in addition to the readings, discussions, and old exams. All his courses emphasized mechanisms of function at the cellular, tissue, organ, system and whole organism levels. Experimental approaches were described, both from researchers and from the experiments of nature that underlie disease to answer the question “How do we know what we know?” His medical background led him to conduct “in-class” experiments to present experimental approaches, such as the use of a pulse oxymeter to measure heart rate and percent hemoglobin saturation during breath-holding, showing that the need to breathe is not due to decreased oxygen in the absence of breathing.
George joined the Neurobiology Section when the Biology Department was reorganized as the Division of Biological Sciences in 2000. His keen insights, good humor, cordial manner and warm collegiality will be greatly missed.
George is survived by his wife, Dr. Nuria Assa-Munt; his son and daughter, Alex and Eva Fortes; and his sister and brother, Dr. Jacqueline Fortes and Dr. Mauricio Fortes.
A memorial service will be announced in the near future. The family asks that in lieu of flowers, donations can be sent to Doctors Without Borders (https://bit.ly/2Ml6b17) or to KPBS (https://bit.ly/33D7nCJ).