Three medical faculty named Wolff professors

From the left, Daniel C. Brennan, MD, Chyi-Song Hsieh, MD, PhD, and Daniel S. Ory, MD, have a laugh while getting their photo taken. The three have been named the Alan A. and Edith L. Wolff Professors in their respective fields of expertise. (Credit: Robert Boston)

Three highly regarded faculty members in the Department of Medicine at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have been named Alan A. and Edith L. Wolff Professors in their respective fields. They are Daniel C. Brennan, MD, Chyi-Song Hsieh, MD, PhD, and Daniel S. Ory, MD.

A bequest by the late Edith L. Wolff to enable these and other professorships continues the legacy of support for medical research that characterized Edith L. Wolff’s life and that of her husband, the late Alan A. Wolff.

“The individuals named Wolff Professors today exemplify the character and caliber of researcher physicians the late Edith Wolff envisioned with her bequest,” said Washington University Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton. “Her generous endowment will link the Wolffs’ name with research excellence at Washington University well into the future.”

Larry J. Shapiro, MD, executive vice chancellor for medical affairs and dean of the School of Medicine, noted that the school has benefited from the generosity of Edith L. and Alan A. Wolff for more than 35 years. “Their commitment has had a profound impact on our research mission,” he said. “Our quest to understand, prevent, treat and cure diseases is enhanced through the cutting-edge work being done by Drs. Brennan, Hsieh and Ory.”

The couple owned Wolff Construction Co., a real estate development, investment and management company founded by Alan A. Wolff in the late 1940s. Edith L. Wolff became president of the company following her husband’s death in 1989 and led the company until her death in 2008.

For more than three decades, the couple directed funds to multiple areas of medical research at the School of Medicine.

In 1999, Edith L. Wolff endowed a professorship to support progress in understanding cancer. Daniel C. Link, MD, an oncologist and stem cell biologist, consequently was named the Alan A. and Edith L. Wolff Distinguished Professor in Medicine.

In 2003, she endowed the Alan A. and Edith L. Wolff Distinguished Professorship in Medicine held by William A. Peck, MD, former dean of the School of Medicine and now director of the university’s Center for Health Policy. She also established the Edith L. Wolff Scholarship Loan Fund, a noninterest-bearing fund for medical students.

In 2007, she made a commitment of $20 million to establish the Alan A. and Edith L. Wolff Institute at Washington University School of Medicine to support biomedical research projects. In 2011, two Wolff Distinguished Professorships, the first enabled by Edith L. Wolff’s estate, were established in developmental biology and in molecular biology.

In recognition of her extraordinary support of medical research, Edith L. Wolff received a number of awards from Washington University, including the Robert S. Brookings Award, the Second Century award from the School of Medicine, and an honorary doctorate in 2004.

Daniel C. Brennan, MD, is the Alan A. and Edith L. Wolff Professor of Renal Diseases. He is a professor of medicine and director of transplant nephrology at the School of Medicine. Brennan joined the faculty in 1993 as the first director of transplant nephrology. He is internationally known for his studies on infectious complications of kidney transplants, and his research has resulted in new anti-rejection strategies that have markedly improved kidney transplantation outcomes.

“In the past two decades, Dr. Brennan has helped grow the kidney transplant program at Barnes-Jewish Hospital into one of the largest and most experienced in the United States,” said Victoria Fraser, MD, the Adolphus Busch Professor of Medicine and chairman of the Department of Medicine.

Brennan is an innovative researcher who has published seminal work about the diagnosis and treatment of viral infections that complicate organ transplants and has identified drugs that reduce the incidence of post-transplant rejection. He is a widely cited authority on the economics of anti-rejection drugs used in kidney transplantation.

The American Society of Transplantation gave Brennan its Young Investigator Clinical Science Award in 1999 and the Clinical Science Award in 2003. That year, he also received the National Kidney Foundation Award of Excellence. In 2011, Brennan received both the Cornell College Distinguished Alumni Leadership and Service Award and the Barnes-Jewish Hospital/Washington University School of Medicine Neville Grant Award for Clinical Excellence. In 2005, 2008 and 2009, he received the School of Medicine’s Renal Fellows’ Teaching Award.

Chyi-Song Hsieh, MD, PhD, the Alan A. and Edith L. Wolff Professor of Rheumatology, is an associate professor of medicine and of pathology and immunology. Hsieh, who studies autoimmune diseases, joined the School of Medicine faculty in 2005 and has conducted groundbreaking research in basic immunology.

“Dr. Hsieh’s seminal studies explaining key details of how the immune system’s regulatory T cells develop have opened the door to a better understanding of immune tolerance and for development of immune-based therapies,” Fraser said.

Hsieh’s current research centers on how immune tolerance is established and how tolerance relates to the infectious process. His work, which has been published in the journals Nature and Nature Immunology, has received international recognition.

Hsieh is a member of the American Society for Clinical Investigation and has received two Burroughs Wellcome awards, the Arthritis Foundation’s American College of Rheumatology Investigator Award, and the Pfizer Post-doctoral Fellowship in Rheumatology. He is course master for the Division of Biology and Biomedical Sciences’ molecular mechanisms of immunological diseases course and is a popular mentor.

In 2013, the School of Medicine honored Hsieh for his pioneering work in basic immunology research with a Distinguished Investigator Award.

Daniel S. Ory, MD, the Alan A. and Edith L. Wolff Professor of Cardiology, is a professor of medicine and of cell biology and physiology. He is co-director of the BioMed 21 Diabetic Cardiovascular Disease Center and director of the Washington University metabolomics facility. He also is director of admissions for the Division of Biology and Biomedical Sciences. He joined the faculty in 1995.

Ory studies cholesterol biology and Niemann-Pick disease type C, a rare, neurodegenerative cholesterol storage disorder.

“Dr. Ory has made seminal contributions to understanding cellular cholesterol regulation and the pathogenesis of Niemann-Pick C disease,” Fraser said.

The Ory laboratory has discovered new disease markers that have provided tools for monitoring disease treatment, critical for developing new therapies. New assays based on these disease markers and created in the Ory laboratory are being adopted worldwide as the diagnostic standard for this disease and used to guide NIH-sponsored clinical trials to develop new therapies for NPC disease. Ory currently leads an NIH-based team designing advanced trials of a treatment for NPC that was identified in his laboratory.

Ory chairs the scientific advisory board of the Niemann-Pick Disease Foundation and the International Niemann-Pick Disease Alliance. He has been elected to the American Society for Clinical Investigation, the Association of American Physicians and is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He recently received the 2013 Guardian Angel Award from Dana’s Angels Research Trust in recognition of his NPC disease research.

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 sixth 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.