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Bacharier named inaugural Strunk Chair to advance pediatric asthma research

Pediatric allergist was Strunk's mentee, research partner

by Kristina SauerweinSeptember 1, 2017

MEGAN BROECKLING

Leonard B. Bacharier, MD, a highly regarded pediatric allergist and researcher at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, has been named the inaugural Robert C. Strunk Endowed Chair for Lung and Respiratory Research Professor of Pediatrics.

Bacharier, the clinical director of the Division of Allergy, Immunology and Pulmonary Medicine in the Department of Pediatrics, was installed by Gary A. Silverman, MD, PhD, the Harriet B. Spoehrer Professor and head of the Department of Pediatrics, and Joan Magruder, president of St. Louis Children’s Hospital (SLCH).

The position is funded by an anonymous donor through the SLCH Foundation and is named in honor of Strunk, an internationally renowned Washington University pediatric allergist who died at age 73 in April 2016.

“Len is the ideal clinician and researcher to hold the Robert C. Strunk professorship,” said Silverman, who also is the pediatrician-in-chief at SLCH. “Like his mentor Bob Strunk, Len has dedicated his career to improving the health and the overall well-being of children suffering from asthma, a devastating chronic disease.”

Strunk, a beloved physician and faculty member, was honored at the installation ceremony. He spent more than three decades treating pediatric asthma patients and researching the condition, as well as advocating for the children and their families, particularly those from economically disadvantaged areas.

“Both Drs. Strunk and Bacharier have dedicated their medical careers to improving the health of children with asthma in our community and around the world,” Magruder said. “Asthma does not only affect children’s health but their well-being. Children with asthma miss three times as much school as those without asthma, causing them to fall behind, sometimes significantly. This puts children at a disadvantage not just in their academics but with employment and quality of life.”

Strunk was a mentor to Bacharier. They partnered on research projects examining treatment methods for childhood asthma, many of which were funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and are led today by Bacharier. Additionally, Bacharier’s research includes studying the role of early infection with respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) in asthma development.

“It is a great honor to be the first recipient of the Robert C. Strunk Endowed Chair for Lung and Respiratory Research,” said Bacharier, who treats patients at SLCH and is a unit co-leader for the Pediatric Patient Oriented Research Unit. “Dr. Strunk was my longtime mentor, colleague and friend, and he set an incredibly high standard for an academic physician. His life’s work has exerted a lasting and substantial impact on our understanding of, and care for, children with asthma. This professorship continually will remind me to endeavor to advance the legacy he provided.”

Shortly after Strunk’s death, Bacharier was named the Donald B. Strominger Professor of Pediatrics — a position Strunk had held for many years. Before that, Bacharier was the Harvey R. Colten Scholar in Pediatrics.

Bacharier earned a bachelor’s degree in biophysics from Johns Hopkins University and his medical degree from Washington University. He completed his residency in pediatrics at SLCH and a fellowship in pediatric allergy and immunology at Boston Children’s Hospital. He returned to join the faculty at Washington University in 1998.

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 seventh 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.