Joseph R. Libonati, PhD
Joseph Libonati investigates how exercise affects cardiovascular physiology, bridging the gap between laboratory and clinic to give health care providers new tools to affect clinical outcomes.
Dr. Libonati investigates how exercise training affects the heart in numerous cardiovascular disease states, including myocardial infarction (and post-myocardial infarction), hypertension, and cardiotoxicity from the chemotherapy medication doxorubicin. His background as a clinical exercise physiologist benefits his role as a leader of translational research, as he brings firsthand experience with cardiac rehabilitation patients to the laboratory.
“The ebb and flow of energy between teachers and students is very gratifying. I love it when a student says, ‘Your class really helped me.’”
- PhD , Temple University, 1993
- MS, East Stroudsburg University, 1987
- BS, East Stroudsburg University, 1986
Dr. Libonati teaches pulmonary and cardiovascular physiology and advanced physiology and pathophysiology. He focuses on helping students apply fundamental physiology concepts to clinical challenges. Dr. Libonati counts seeing students continue to graduate school or successful clinical careers among his proudest achievements. He believes the opportunity Penn Nursing students have to participate in laboratory science through his and other laboratories is rare in nursing. Basic biological science opens opportunities for nursing students beyond what many schools offer.
Dr. Libonati’s work, supported by grants from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and the American Heart Association, appears in numerous venues, from peer-reviewed clinical journals to YouTube videos (including Penn Research News) and other media for the public on exercise science, heart health, and safe physical activity. While exercise is a positive, proactive strategy that affects nearly every disease, it can have less positive side effects for some patients and situations. Dr. Libonati’s laboratory gathers the data that allow nurses, physicians, and other providers to make health and rehabilitation recommendations based on scientific data.
Does Exercise Help Stem Cells Survive?
A recent basic science study from Dr. Libonati’s laboratory showed that aerobic exercise increased retention of transplanted exogenous stem cells in the heart. The basis for this investigation was clinical data showing that both stem cell therapy and cardiac rehabilitation help patients with heart attacks and heart failure improve. These findings sparked the research team’s interest in the benefits of combining these therapies.
How Exercise Physiology Helps Nurses and Patients
The majority of U.S. health care providers are nurses. Because exercise can have such profound effects on so many health conditions, and nurses play so many roles, from providing patient education in the hospital to working in cardiac rehab, Dr. Libonati believes nurses who are well educated about the physiology and biology of exercise and its effects on conditions from cardiac rehabilitation to depression, can have an enormous potential impact on public health. This is especially important in an era of multiple chronic diseases and lifestyle-related disorders, such as obesity and type 2 diabetes, affecting patients at younger ages.
Selected Career Highlights
- 2020 Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching, University of Pennsylvania
- 2018 Graduate Student Teaching Award, University of Pennsylvania
- 2017 Deans Exemplary Teaching Award, University of Pennsylvania, School of Nursing
- 2016 Anne Keane Teaching Award, University of Pennsylvania, School of Nursing
- 2013 Anne Keane Teaching Award, University of Pennsylvania, School of Nursing