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About Dean Perlmutter

A respected leader in the field of pediatric gastroenterology with decades of experience in academic medicine, David H. Perlmutter, MD, joined Washington University in December 2015 as executive vice chancellor for medical affairs and dean of the School of Medicine.

In his previous position at University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Perlmutter was a distinguished professor and the Vira I. Heinz Endowed Chair of the Department of Pediatrics. He also was physician-in-chief and scientific director of Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC).

David H. Perlmutter, MD, executive vice chancellor for medical affairs and dean of the School of Medicine, talks with graduate research assistant Dolonchampa Maji. Photo: Tim Parker

Perlmutter joined the faculty of Harvard Medical School in 1983 and came to Washington University School of Medicine in 1986. Perlmutter spent 15 years as a faculty member in the Department of Pediatrics at Washington University School of Medicine, where he was the first to hold the Donald Strominger Professorship of Pediatrics. He also led the Division of Gastroenterology and Nutrition at the School of Medicine and St. Louis Children’s Hospital before leaving for Pittsburgh in 2001. In addition to his many leadership roles, Perlmutter has sustained a productive research program. His lab has focused on understanding an inherited genetic condition called alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency (ATD), in which accumulation of a misfolded protein causes severe liver damage in some of the affected individuals.

To evaluate potential treatments for ATD, Perlmutter and his colleagues in Pittsburgh have developed a pipeline of drugs that includes one drug in Phase 2 trials. Their goal is to eliminate the future need for liver transplantation, the only treatment option for patients with progressive liver disease due to ATD. Because these drugs target a critical cellular degradation mechanism that declines with aging, they also are being considered for treatment of age-dependent degenerative diseases.

Along with a successful research career, Perlmutter has a long history of maintaining and growing financial support for basic research and physician training, especially through funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Under his leadership, Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh became one of the fastest growing pediatric research programs in the nation, with a sixfold increase in NIH funding and the hiring of more than 300 new medical faculty members.

Perlmutter has been honored with numerous awards throughout his career, including the E. Mead Johnson Award for Research in Pediatrics from the American Pediatric Society, the Sass-Kortsak Award for Pediatric Liver Research from the Canadian Liver Association, and the Shwachman Award for Lifetime Achievement from the North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition.

Dean Perlmutter with his wife, Barbara A. Cohlan, MD, a professor in the Department of Pediatrics. Photo: Tim Parker

In addition to his administrative and research activities, Perlmutter has served on many editorial boards, advisory boards and national committees. He is a past president of the Society for Pediatric Research and is a member of the Association of American Physicians and the American Society for Clinical Investigation. In 2008, he was elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences. He has authored nearly 200 scientific publications and holds nine U.S. patents or patent applications.

Originally from Brooklyn, New York, Perlmutter earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Rochester and his medical degree from Saint Louis University School of Medicine. He completed his internship and residency in pediatrics at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, followed by research and clinical fellowships in pediatric gastroenterology at Boston Children’s Hospital.

Also part of the university faculty is Perlmutter’s wife, Barbara A. Cohlan, MD, who is a professor of pediatrics in the Division of Newborn Medicine in the Department of Pediatrics. She previously was a professor of pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, where she directed the Normal Newborn Nurseries and the Neonatal Follow-up Clinic at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC.