Dorn named Needleman Professor

Gerald W. Dorn II, M.D., has been named the Philip and Sima K. Needleman Professor of Medicine at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. The professorship was established to support a faculty member holding a key leadership position within the BioMed 21 initiative, a multidisciplinary imperative to rapidly convert research findings into effective, individualized treatments.

Gerald Dorn

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

“The generosity of Dr. and Mrs. Needleman in establishing this professorship is greatly appreciated,” Wrighton says. “Their gift recognizes the importance of the BioMed 21 initiative as a model for research and discovery that leads quickly to new medical treatments, and we are grateful for their vision.”

“Gerald Dorn conducts research in cardiac disease that is multidisciplinary in nature, and he is on the leading edge in the development of individualized care for heart disease,” Shapiro says. “His work epitomizes the ideals of 21st century medicine in which basic science discoveries reshape and vastly improve health care on a personal level.”

Dorn’s heart failure research examines how the heart adapts to increased stress and how these adaptive mechanisms ultimately fail. His research into the factors that affect heart function integrates the findings of human genetics studies with experiments performed in genetically manipulated mouse and fly models and basic laboratory investigations using cell and molecular biology approaches. A cardiologist at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and a top researcher in the area of pharmacogenomics — how an individual’s genetic makeup influences the effect of drug therapy — Dorn has made important contributions to the understanding of how genetic variations determine different patients’ responses to heart failure therapy.

“It is a privilege to be named the inaugural recipient of this professorship,” Dorn says. “Dr. Needleman is an exemplar of the academic translational scientist, having made important fundamental scientific discoveries that were successfully developed into human therapies and defining novel pharmacological concepts that have broadly impacted our understanding of pharmacokinetics. The unparalleled excellence of Washington University in the area of human genomics provides a unique opportunity for our institution to break new ground in the rapidly evolving area of personalized medicine directed by individual genetic testing.”

Philip Needleman earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in pharmacology from the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science. He earned a doctorate in pharmacology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. Needleman spent 25 years at Washington University School of Medicine where he became a full professor and chaired the school’s Department of Pharmacology from 1976 to 1989. He then became an executive in the pharmaceutical industry. In 2004, Dr. Needleman served as associate dean at Washington University School of Medicine and assisted with the BioMed 21 initiative.

Needleman is a leading expert on inflammation and the developer of Celebrex, a widely used arthritis drug. He has garnered numerous awards and honors, including election to the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine. He currently serves on the Washington University Board of Trustees and on the boards of the St. Louis Science Center, Barnes-Jewish Hospital, the Plant and Life Sciences Coalition and the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center.

Sima Needleman earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Glassboro State College and a master’s degree in social work from the George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington University. She was a medical social worker in the Division of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Jewish Hospital from 1976 to 1992, where she concentrated on high-risk pregnancies and infertility issues and became a licensed clinical social worker. She went into private practice as a social worker from 1992 until 1998.

Mrs. Needleman has been involved with the Washington University community for many years. She served 10 years on the George Warren Brown School of Social Work’s alumni board for which she chaired numerous committees and served as president from 1993 to 1995. She has also been a very active volunteer in the St. Louis community.

Dorn joined Washington University in January 2008 as associate chairman for translational research and director of the Center for Pharmacogenomics at the School of Medicine. Dorn earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Lander College in Greenwood, S.C., and a medical degree from the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston where he stayed to complete his internship, residency and fellowships in pharmacology and cardiology.

After two years as assistant professor at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, Dorn moved to the University of Cincinnati where he advanced to become the Mable Stonehill Professor and director of the division of cardiology, the associate dean for cardiovascular affairs and the Hanna Professor and director of the Center for Molecular Cardiovascular Research. Dorn directed National Institutes of Health-funded Specialized Centers of Clinically Oriented Research program grants in heart failure genetics for more than 10 years at Cincinnati prior to moving to Washington University.

Dorn is a member of the Association of American Physicians and the American Society for Clinical Investigation and is a fellow of the American College of Cardiology, the American Heart Association and the American College of Physicians. He has received numerous academic awards and sits on the editorial boards of several major scientific journals. He is a highly sought-after lecturer and has published more than 160 scientific papers, book chapters and invited reviews.

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 third 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.