Obituary: Colten, former head of pediatrics, 68

Harvey R. Colten, M.D., chair of the Department of Pediatrics from 1986-1997, died Thursday, May 24, 2007, at New York Presbyterian Hospital of complications from colon cancer. He was 68.

Colten, the Harriet B. Spoehrer Professor of Pediatrics, was pediatrician-in-chief at Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals. During his tenure, he led a team of researchers who found a genetic link to a form of respiratory failure in newborns and played a major role in creating one of the most prestigious departments of pediatrics nationwide.

His efforts as a scientist, clinician, educator and administrator helped the University assume a leadership role in American medicine.

His research made significant and wide-reaching contributions to our understanding of the basic functioning of the immune system and of the body’s inflammatory responses and ultimately played a role in advances in the care and treatment of cystic fibrosis and other respiratory diseases in children.

He trained more than 60 investigators in pediatric allergy/immunology, pulmonology and related scientific disciplines, many of whom have achieved leadership positions in academic medicine.

“Harvey had it all: a piercing intellect, a vision for clinical medicine, a commitment to educating the next generation and an unquenchable thirst for new knowledge,” said Alan L. Schwartz, Ph.D., M.D., the Harriet B. Spoehrer Professor and head of Pediatrics. “He was an academic leader through and through. In St. Louis and nationwide, we miss him deeply.”

In 1997, Colten became dean and vice president for medical affairs at Northwestern University, and in 2002, he joined Columbia University Medical Center as vice president and senior associate dean for academic affairs.

He was a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences and a fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine (London) and of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He received a MERIT award from the National Institutes of Health.

He is survived by his wife, Susan; three children: Jennifer Colten Schmidt of St. Louis, Lora Colten of Homer, Alaska, and Charles Colten of Petrolia, Calif.; six grandchildren; his father; a brother; and a sister.

Memorial contributions may be made to St. Louis Children’s Hospital, Department of Pediatrics, One Children’s Place, St. Louis, Mo., 63110.