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Faculty and administration

Annette Kirchgessner

Dr. Annette L. Kirchgessner, M.A., Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Anatomy

Dr. Kirchgessner received a B.A. from Hunter College, City University of New York (CUNY). She earned her M.A. in Neuropsychology from Queens College, CUNY and her Ph.D. in Neuroscience from the State University New York, Downstate Medical Center. She later pursued her post-doctoring training in the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University in New York, where she began her career as an Assistant Professor and established a productive research program on the neurobiology of the enteric nervous system and its role in inflammatory bowel disease.

Teaching is a passion for Dr. Kirchgessner. Courses she has taught to medical and graduate students (physician assistants, physical therapists, athletic trainers, occupational therapists) since 2011 include: Gross Anatomy, Endocrinology, and Scientific Inquiry. In her most recent position before joining UMHS St Kitts, Dr. Kirchgessner was an Associate Professor at the School of Health and Medical Sciences Seton Hall University, Adjunct Associate Professor at the Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine, and Adjunct Professor and Director of Lower Extremity Anatomy at the New York College of Podiatric Medicine.

In addition to Dr. Kirchgessner’s teaching experience, she led a productive and well-funded (NIH, American Diabetes Association) research program in enteric neurobiology which has resulted in over 50 publications in internationally renowned peer-reviewed journals. The neurocircuitry of the enteric nervous system (ENS), or intrinsic nervous system of the bowel, controls how the gut reacts to an ingested meal, and regulates the processes of digestion, nutrient absorption, and waste elimination. During inflammation, such as that which occurs in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), various features of gut function, including motility, secretion and sensitivity are altered. As the ENS regulates all of these functions, it is not surprising that inflammation affects enteric neurons and neurodegeneration occurs in IBD. Dr. Kirchgessner’s expertise in enteric neurobiology led her to briefly leave academia and become the Head of the Gastroenterology Department at GlaxoSmithKline in the United Kingdom.

Although Dr. Kirchgessner joined UMHS as a full-time faculty fairly recently (December 2020), she has been a Visiting Professor in Anatomy at UMHS for over 8 years. Dr. Kirchgessner has a passion for underwater photography and when she is not teaching anatomy, she can be found snorkeling around the island.

Research Topics

Enteric Neurobiology, Anomalies of Head and Neck Vasculature