Tarr becomes head of pediatric gastroenterology

Phillip I. Tarr, M.D., has been named head of pediatric gastroenterology. His appointment was announced by Alan Schwartz, Ph.D., M.D., the Harriet B. Spoehrer Professor of Pediatrics and head of the Department of Pediatrics.

“Phil Tarr is a renowned expert in understanding how bacteria in our food supply gain entry to the gastrointestinal tract and ultimately cause disease such as the hemolytic-uremic syndrome,” Schwartz said. “His background in infectious diseases and gastroenterology and his strong clinical and teaching commitments make him a great match for the School of Medicine.”

Phillip Tarr reviews a radiograph
New head of pediatric gastoenterology Phillip I. Tarr, M.D., reviews a radiograph. – Bob Boston

Tarr comes to the medical school from the University of Washington and Children’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center in Seattle, where he was a professor of pediatrics and microbiology.

Tarr’s research efforts focus on how Escherichia coli infect humans and cattle, the underlying mechanisms of gastrointestinal problems that result from E. coli infection and treatment approaches for the infection. He also is interested in the genetic analysis of E. coli strains and the differences in the potency and the dangers of different strains.

For instance, Tarr’s University of Washington team found that children who receive antibiotics for diarrhea caused by E. coli have a 17-fold greater chance of developing the hemolytic uremic syndrome, a life-threatening kidney and blood disease, than children who are not treated with antibiotics. The team also demonstrated that prothrombotic coagulation abnormalities occur in advance of renal injury.

These studies appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Tarr earned a bachelor’s degree from Brown University and a medical degree from Yale University. He served as an intern, resident and assistant chief resident in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Washington and then completed fellowships in pediatric infectious diseases and gastroenterology there.

He received the American Gastroenterology Association/Blackwell Scientific Scholar Award from 1992-95 and is a recipient of the Food and Drug Administration Commissioner’s Special Citation.

Tarr also is the principal investigator on a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant and two National Institutes of Health grants.