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Michael L. Pollock June 24, 1936-June 5, 1998

Foster, Carl Ph.D., FACSM

Medicine& Science in Sports & Exercise: September 1998 - Volume 30 - Issue 9 - p 1464-1465
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(Figure) My last memory of Mike Pollock was a chance encounter at the entrance to the exhibit hall at the ACSM Annual Meeting only a few hours before his collapse and untimely death. Mike was intently watching a video monitor replay an interview that incoming ACSM President elect Barry Franklin had given. Slapping Mike on the shoulder, I made a joking comment to the effect that "if he was watching Franklin on TV, he was in real trouble." Ever the earnest "boy scout," Mike replied,"yeah, but doesn't Barry do interviews well?" For me, this small encounter, less than 20 seconds in a 25-year professional relationship, characterized Mike perfectly and forms a fitting last memory. He was ever intent, ever intense, completely unspoiled and unaffected by the accomplishments and reputation of his lifetime. For someone who, himself, had given a thousand interviews and had as much reason to be jaded with the trappings of power as anyone, Mike was genuinely interested in how Barry was answering substantially the same questions that Mike had answered on camera so many times before. In many ways, he remained, to the end, a caricature of the 6 year old for whom everything is always new and interesting and who pesters parents by continually asking "why" to every circumstance; the same 6 year old that is the very heart and soul of all scientists. At the end of his days, Mike was still looking forward, still asking why. He had several graduate students engaged in a variety of projects, and he had just received an NIH grant to "revisit" some of his classical studies of exercise training.


Mike is survived by his wife Rhonda and his three children, Jonathan, Lauren, and Elle. Mike met Rhonda comparatively later in life when we were working together in Milwaukee. It was truly a joy to see Mike blossom with the pleasure of finding his soul mate when it was least expected and the joy of fatherhood long after he had abandoned the expectation of that day ever arriving. Our deepest sympathies to each of you, Rhonda, Jonathan, Lauren, and Elle in your loss. We who knew the professional side of Mike can sense the magnitude of your loss.

Mike came to sports science by the most unlikely of routes. An accomplished collegiate baseball player, he went to the University of Illinois intending to become a coach. However, under the influence of T. K. Cureton and a group of fellow graduate students (whose names represent a virtual Who's Who of modern exercise science), Mike found that scientific inquiry was where his heart and talent lay. While also at the University of Illinois, Mike developed the first twinges of the ankylosing spondylitis which was to plague him throughout his adult life. In true fashion, Mike never let his health problems limit his work, fitness routine, or his enjoyment of life. The word"disability" was not in his lexicon.

Mike was among the most accomplished and far ranging of exercise scientists. His early work with changes in fitness in relation to various permutations of intensity, frequency, duration, and mode of exercise form the underpinnings of the concept of exercise prescription. His work with the interaction between endurance and resistance training virtually created the concept of circuit weight training and set the stage for the concept of cross training. He was the first to attempt to provide a scientifically defensible answer to the question "How much exercise is enough?" His career long interest in body composition assessment left the legacy of the single most widely used anthropometric approach to body composition, which has not been substantially improved upon in the nearly 20 year since its first publication. His organization of the famous Dallas Study of elite runners and its publication in the marathon supplement of the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences set the stage for a multidisciplinary understanding of elite athletic performance. Likewise, his career long study of a group of champion masters runners, with the 20-year follow-up already completed and published, not only anticipated the rise in masters competition but much of the contemporary interest in exercise to moderate the effects of aging. No less important was Mike's central role in the development of the contemporary model of cardiopulmonary rehabilitation. His work over the last 25 years of his life pointed the way for adapting concepts from gymnasium based fitness and rehabilitation programs into essential components of contemporary medical practice. In particular his work demonstrating the value of surveillance for recurrent medical problems by the rehabilitation staff defined the structure(and indeed the reimbursement strategy) of modern hospital-based cardiac rehabilitation. Lastly, his substantial body of late career work with the assessment and treatment of illness of the spine provided the linkage by which the broader concept of clinical physiology grew out of cardiac rehabilitation and created the possibility for closer links between the clinical exercise physiology community and the physical therapy community. That his death occurred preceding a lecture to the American Physical Therapy Association, held in the same convention center as the annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine, is appropriate even in its tragedy.

Mike was widely admired for his ability to get data into publication in a timely and insightful manner. His CV lists over 200 peer-reviewed publications and numerous scientific chapters. His book Heart Disease and Rehabilitation (co-edited with Don Schmidt and now in its third edition) served as the definitive reference text for a generation. His text Exercise in Health and Disease (co-authored with Jack Wilmore and now in its second edition) likewise served as a reference for a generation of physiologists interested in exercise evaluation and prescription. Early in his career he made meaningful contributions to Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription, which has become the cornerstone of the ACSM Certification programs. He was the original and primary author of the ACSM position stand "The Recommended Quantity and Quality of Exercise for Developing and Maintaining Cardiorespiratory and Muscular Fitness and Flexibility in Healthy Adults." The third version of this classic work was published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise® only days following his death, a fitting capstone to his career.

As large as were Mike's contributions as a working scientist (according to Eugene Garfield, Chairman Emeritus of ISI and publisher of The Scientist, Mike stood number 18 internationally in terms of sports medicine/sports science author performance from 1981 to 1996), his contributions in terms of professional societies was equal if not greater. He was a member of five different societies, and a Fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine, the American Association for Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation, and the American College of Cardiology. He was a member of the Board of Trustees of ACSM from 1976 to 1979, a vice president from 1978 to 1979, and part of the presidential triumvirate from 1981 to 1984, during the critical period when the ACSM national center in Indianapolis was being developed. He had received the Citation Award from ACSM in 1994. He was one of the founding members of the AACVPR and was recipient of the Honor Award from that society in 1996. He was or had been on the editorial board of 10 scientific journals, including Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise and the Journal of Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation. Together with Vic Froelicher, he was the founder of the Journal of Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation and co-editor from 1979 to 1991.

Altogether we have lost an extraordinary colleague, it is difficult to tell whether history will remember Mike more as scientist, as author, or as professional society leader; remember him it will. Those of us privileged to know him, or work with him know that a wonderful soul is gone from among us. Finally, there is a description of the legendary long-distance runner, Arthur Newton, reproduced in Tim Noakes' book The Lore of Running, which (in a different idiom) describes Mike perfectly:

"...if one thing stands out above all others, it must be the honesty and trust of the man, the sheer goodness-it shows out in any photograph."

Carl Foster, Ph.D., FACSM

©1998The American College of Sports Medicine