Obituary: Clouse, gastroenterology specialist, 56

Ray E. Clouse M.D., professor of medicine and of psychiatry, died at his home on Friday, Aug. 31, 2007, of complications from lung cancer, although he was not a smoker. He was 56.

A specialist in gastroenterology, Clouse maintained a large clinical practice at Barnes-Jewish Hospital for 27 years. He also pursued research into the mind’s effect on illnesses, including inflammatory bowel disease and diabetes.

Ray Clouse
Ray Clouse

“Ray was the quintessential scholarly physician,” said Kenneth S. Polonsky, M.D., the Adolphus Busch Professor of Medicine, professor of cell biology and physiology and head of the Department of Medicine. “He was dedicated to his patients, to his research and to teaching young physicians, and he will be sorely missed.”

With Patrick J. Lustman, Ph.D., Clouse put together the University’s Center for Mind/Body Research.

“Ray was an outstanding clinician-scientist, colleague, mentor and friend,” said Lustman. “For more than two decades, he spearheaded the efforts of Washington University researchers to understand and document how physical and psychiatric factors interact in medical illness. Ray brought a giant and creative intellect to all of his work. He conducted himself with grace, compassion, good humor and humility and epitomized what is noble in academic life.”

Through his long collaborations with Lustman and other mental health specialists, Clouse found it was possible to help manage some gastrointestinal problems with the help of antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs, and the standard of care in the field has changed as a result of that work.

Clouse was also a pioneer in the understanding of gastrointestinal motility — how the intestinal tract moves food from the mouth through the gut. In particular, he studied the esophagus, working to better understand the relationship between motility and disease, between emotional disturbances and motility disorders and the relationship between the brain and the gut.

Using catheters to measure pressure in the esophagus, Clouse mapped the contractions that allow food to pass through the organ. And using computer technology, he was the first to map those movements in a three-dimensional way to better understand the sometimes very minor differences between healthy function and disease.

Recently, Clouse also began working with patients suffering from unexplained symptoms who previously had been told those symptoms were “all in their heads.” Until last month, he worked with colleagues to study those patients, learning that individual patients’ brains may process pain signals in very different ways. The findings may lead to more effective treatments for conditions that are not well understood, such as irritable bowel syndrome and fibromyalgia.

Clouse was born in Elkhart, Ind., and grew up in Nappanee, Ind. He completed his undergraduate work at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., and earned his medical degree from Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis. He joined the faculty after completing his gastroenterology training at the University in 1980.

In addition to his research he assisted Nicholas O. Davidson, M.D., chief for the Division of Gastroenterology, in directing the gastroenterology fellowship training program.

“Over the last 27 years, he organized and supervised our GI fellowship program and trained more than 100 gastroenterology fellows,” Davidson said. “He was a generous, thoughtful and insightful colleague, an outstanding mentor and a loyal friend.”

In 1998, Clouse was chosen to receive the Janssen Award in Gastroenterology, which honors scientists and clinicians who have made important contributions to gastrointestinal research and patient care. In 2006, he was honored with the Distinguished Educator Award from the American Gastroenterological Association, the organization’s highest educational award.

He was a member of Christ Church Cathedral, where his funeral was held Sept. 4. Clouse also was a Knight of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem.

Among his survivors are his partner of 21 years, the Rev. Canon John W. Kilgore, M.D., of St. Louis; and two nephews, Matthew C. Moberly and Aaron C. Moberly, M.D., both of Indianapolis.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Washington University School of Medicine, Division of Gastroenterology, Campus Box 8124, 660 S. Euclid Ave., St. Louis, Mo., 63110; Christ Church Cathedral, 1210 Locust Street, St. Louis, Mo., 63103.