Castro named Wolff Professor of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine

Mario Castro, MD, has been named the Alan A. and Edith L. Wolff Professor of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. He is a noted authority on asthma and other respiratory diseases.

Castro was installed as the Wolff Professor of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine by Washington University Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton and Larry J. Shapiro, MD, executive vice chancellor for medical affairs and dean of the School of Medicine.

“Dr. Castro is a world-class researcher and physician whose work continues to improve the lives of patients,” said Wrighton. “He joins an elite group of physician-scientists who hold Wolff Professorships at Washington University.”

Gifts from the late Alan and Edith Wolff have supported medical research at the university for more than 30 years, advancing work by leaders in several fields.

“Dr. Castro exemplifies the competence, achievement and character that Alan and Edith Wolff appreciated and reinforced with their support,” Shapiro said. “His work stands out in his efforts to improve respiratory care on local, national and international levels.”

Castro joined the faculty of Washington University in 1994 and has served as director of the Asthma and Airway Translational Research Center. He now co-directs the Office of Training Grants in the Clinical Research Training Center in the School of Medicine’s Institute of Clinical and Translational Sciences and the Office of Faculty Development in the Department of Medicine.

Castro earned his bachelor’s and medical degrees from the University of Missouri–Kansas City. He then completed residency and fellowship training at the Mayo Graduate School of Medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. After joining the Washington University faculty, he earned a master’s degree in public health from Saint Louis University in 1998.

Castro holds leadership roles on a national level, serving as principal investigator for two major asthma networks: the National Institutes of Health (NIH) AsthmaNet and the American Lung Association Asthma Clinical Research Center. Researchers involved in the networks are investigating better ways to treat asthma.

In addition, Castro leads the NIH Severe Asthma Research Program, which aims to understand why patients with severe asthma have progressive loss of lung function due to airway remodeling. He runs the clinical core of an Allergic Diseases Cooperative Research Centers grant on the molecular and cellular mechanisms of asthma, sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease. In 1998, he started the NIH-sponsored Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) Bronchiolitis in Early Life prospective cohort study, which seeks to understand the biologic, genetic and immunologic determinants of asthma in infants hospitalized with RSV bronchiolitis. In the last 20 years, Castro has mentored over 30 students, residents, fellows and junior faculty in internal medicine, pediatrics and health-services research.

Internationally, Castro has spent more than a decade working to improve respiratory care in Honduras. He leads a group of volunteers called The Pulmonary and Allergy Brigade, which provides respiratory and allergy care in a region of Honduras where such services are otherwise unavailable. Castro also helped establish Hospital Hermano Pedro, a new hospital in Catacamas, Honduras. He was honored for these efforts in 2005 with the Humanitarian Recognition Award from the CHEST Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the American College of Chest Physicians.

“Dr. Castro has played important roles at Washington University through his research and community service,” said Victoria J. Fraser, MD, the Adolphus Busch Professor of Medicine and head of the Department of Medicine. “He is committed to reducing health disparities and has focused his research on improving asthma diagnosis and management through community engagement, dissemination of evidenced-based practices and development of new treatments for severe asthma.

“He has led medical missions to Central America to foster improved management of acute and chronic lung diseases in impoverished areas and provided training and direct health-care delivery in urban and rural settings with teams of medical students and physicians. He is an outstanding role model and has worked tirelessly to improve public health,” she said.

Alan and Edith Wolff owned Wolff Construction Co., a real-estate development, investment and management company. Alan Wolff founded the company in the 1940s and led it until his death in 1989. Edith Wolff then led the company as president until her death in 2008.

Over more than 30 years, the Wolffs directed funds to many areas of medical research at the School of Medicine. Their gifts have supported research in Alzheimer’s disease, heart transplant, bacterial sepsis, dermatology, cell biology and critical care medicine. They have provided for 12 endowed professorships, six distinguished endowed professorships and specific research funds in cancer and ophthalmology. Their donations also support the Edith L. Wolff Scholarship Loan Fund, a noninterest-bearing fund for medical students.

In 2007, Edith Wolff committed $20 million to establish the Alan A. and Edith L. Wolff Institute at the School of Medicine to advance the most promising biomedical research projects focused on preventing, treating and curing disease.

In recognition of her generous support of medical research, Edith Wolff received numerous 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.

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.