Stenson named Costrini Professor

William F. Stenson, M.D., has been named the Dr. Nicholas V. Costrini Professor of Gastroenterology & Inflammatory Bowel Disease at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

Washington University Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton made the announcement with Larry J. Shapiro, M.D., executive vice chancellor for medical affairs and dean of the School of Medicine.

“We are grateful to Nicholas and Coral Costrini for their generosity to Washington University in establishing this professorship,” Wrighton said. “Endowed professorships represent the cornerstone of our continuing efforts to recruit new faculty and to retain outstanding researchers and educators such as Dr. Stenson.”

“The Costrini Professorship will help support important research to help us better understand the causes of and potential therapies for inflammatory bowel disease, a condition that affects up to a million individuals in the United States,” said Shapiro. “And I am very pleased that my classmate, Bill Stenson, has the honor of being chosen as the first physician/scientist to hold this professorship.”

Nicholas V. Costrini, M.D., Ph.D., is medical director of the Georgia Gastroenterology Group. Costrini endowed the new professorship with his wife, Coral R. Costrini who has served as the group’s chief financial officer.

Stenson, a 1971 graduate of the School of Medicine, joined the Division of Gastroenterology in 1979, following an internship and residency in medicine and fellowships in both gastroenterology and immunology. The major focus of his research involves the role of inflammation in intestinal injury and wound repair. He studies enzymes produced in response to injury, which, in turn, synthesize prostaglandins. The creation of prostaglandins is key to repairing damaged intestinal tissue. Prostaglandins also regulate immune response in the intestine.

Kenneth S. Polonsky, M.D., the Adolphus Busch Professor and head of the John Milliken Department of Medicine at Washington University School of Medicine, says Stenson’s research is vital to improving understanding of the causes of and potential solutions for inflammatory bowel disease.

“Bill Stenson brings a broad scientific perspective to his research and has taken his work in many directions over the years, from studies of prostaglandin synthesis to research into connections between celiac disease and osteoporosis,” said Polonsky. “It is entirely appropriate to support the work of such an outstanding physician and investigator, and this endowment guarantees such support in future years.”

Stenson was born in Rome, N.Y. Before coming to Washington University for medical school, he attended Providence College in Providence, R.I., where he graduated magna cum laude in 1967. He also served as a flight surgeon in the U.S. Air Force and attained the rank of Major prior to his discharge in 1975. The rest of his medical career has been spent at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and the School of Medicine. From 1981-1997, he was chief of the Division of Gastroenterology at the Jewish Hospital of St. Louis, and in 1997-98, he was acting chief of gastroenterology at the School of Medicine.

He is a member of the American Gastroenterologic Association, the American Association of Immunologists, the American Society for Clinical Investigation and the Association of American Physicians. Stenson also is an editor for the journals Current Opinion in Gastroenterology and Inflammatory Bowel Disease, and he serves on the editorial board of the journal Gastroenterology. He is a 2007 National Institutes of Health MERIT Award winner, and he has published more than 150 scientific articles and book chapters.

“I am grateful for this honor, which recognizes the importance of the work we’ve done to better understand intestinal injury and disease,” Stenson said. “I’m also happy my future work will be connected with Dr. Costrini’s name. He did much of his post-graduate training at Washington University and Barnes Hospital during the same time that I was completing my training, so it’s nice to be associated in this way some 30 years later.”

Costrini grew up in Tampa, Fla., and graduated from Georgia State University in 1967 with a degree in biology. In 1970, he completed a doctorate in physiology at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wis. He later attended the Medical College of Wisconsin, where he finished a medical degree in 1973 before coming to Washington University School of Medicine and Barnes Hospital where he served as an intern and resident and later chief resident in medicine, as well as fellowships in gastroenterology and in biological chemistry.

He returned to the Medical College of Wisconsin as an assistant professor in gastroenterology for two years prior to entering private practice in Savannah, Ga. in 1981.

He has remained in Georgia since and has served as director of several hospital digestive disease units, built and directed the Georgia Center for Digestive Diseases which is the endoscopy center attached to his solo private practice, the Georgia Gastroenterology Group, PC. This practice is the largest solo digestive disease practice in the South. He has served as president of the Georgia Gastroenterologic and Endoscopic Society and the Coastal Crohn’s and Colitis Society. In addition, he writes a health column for the Savannah Morning News, covering a wide range of medical topics.

“The single most important thing a physician can do is practice the highest quality of medicine possible,” Costrini said. “The training I received at Washington University School of Medicine has allowed me to do that in my community and to enjoy the success attendant to that quality. This endowment is a measure of my appreciation to Washington University and its Division of Gastroenterology.”

The Costrini family also includes children Angela, David, Kelly, and John who joined their parents in St. Louis for the ceremony to officially install Stenson as the Costrini Professor.

Washington University School of Medicine’s 2,100 employed and volunteer faculty physicians also are the medical staff of Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals. The School of Medicine is one of the leading medical research, teaching and patient care institutions in the nation, currently ranked fourth in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Through its affiliations with Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals, the School of Medicine is linked to BJC HealthCare.