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Buchowski named Lenke Distinguished Professor

Professorship in orthopedic surgery endowed by former Washington University spine surgeon

by Jim DrydenJune 7, 2019

Mark Beaven

Jacob M. Buchowski, MD, a noted specialist in spine surgery and mentor to surgeons in training, has been installed as the inaugural Lawrence G. and Elizabeth A. Lenke Distinguished Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

Buchowski is director of the department’s Spine Division and of the spine surgery fellowship. He was installed by Chancellor Emeritus Mark S. Wrighton and David H. Perlmutter, MD, executive vice chancellor for medical affairs, the George and Carol Bauer Dean of the School of Medicine and the Spencer T. and Ann W. Olin Distinguished Professor.

“We thank Larry and Beth Lenke for this endowment and are grateful that their strong ties to St. Louis and to Washington University continue,” Wrighton said. “Larry Lenke did much of his training here, and Beth was an ICU nurse at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. They have moved away, but this generous gift reinforces the ties they’ll always have to the School of Medicine.”

Lenke was director of the Spine Division in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery until 2015, when he took a position at New York-Presbyterian Hospital and Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.

“Dr. Lenke was a mentor for Dr. Buchowski, and eventually, Jacob went on to succeed Dr. Lenke as our leader in the area of specialized spine surgery,” Perlmutter said. “Dr. Buchowski’s work has garnered national and international attention as part of our orthopedics team. He has shown exceptional skill as a surgeon, an educator and a mentor, and in the development of innovative approaches to spine surgery.”

Buchowski is a specialist in spinal oncology, in complex reconstructive spine surgery and in surgery to treat spinal deformities.

“Jacob is a leader in understanding and improving clinical outcomes following surgery for spinal tumors and metastatic spine disease,” said Regis J. O’Keefe, MD, PhD, the Fred C. Reynolds Professor and head of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. “He leads the efforts of a multidisciplinary team that is advancing the understanding and treatment of spine diseases through cutting-edge clinical, translational and basic science research.”

Buchowski earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in molecular biophysics and biochemistry from Yale University. He received his medical degree from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, where he went on to complete a residency in orthopedic surgery, serving as chief resident at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. He came to Washington University for fellowship training in adult and pediatric spine surgery.

He has been a major contributor to scientific literature, and he frequently is invited to share his expertise at international, national and regional meetings. Buchowski has received numerous awards, most recently an honor from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons for his service on the organization’s board of directors. He is a diplomate of the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery, and he serves in editorial roles for the Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery; Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research; Spine Deformity; and The Spine Journal.

“I am honored to receive this recognition and to serve in a professorship that bears the name of one of my mentors,” Buchowski said. “This endowment not only will support my research and clinical practice, it also will help support the work we do in the spine fellowship program.”

The Lenkes spent most of their adult lives in St. Louis and have strong ties to the city and to the School of Medicine. Dr. Lenke arrived at Washington University as an orthopedic surgery resident in 1986. He met his future wife, an intensive care unit nurse, at what was then Barnes Hospital. She later earned a master’s degree in health administration at the university and spent 15 years managing outpatient clinics, a surgery center and physician practices, as well as developing strategic business plans for BJC HealthCare.

“Washington University School of Medicine and the St. Louis region are very important to Beth and me,” Lenke said. “We met here. Our children were born here and grew up here. I trained here, and I had the privilege to treat and help many wonderful people over the years in the Spine Division. We owe quite a lot to Washington University, and we’re honored to be able to help support the School of Medicine and Dr. Buchowski in this way.”

Lenke grew up in the Chicago area and earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Notre Dame and his medical degree from Northwestern University School of Medicine. He completed his residency and fellowship training in spinal surgery at Washington University, under Keith H. Bridwell, MD, the J. Albert Key Distinguished Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery and founder of the pediatric/adult spinal deformity service and the spinal surgery fellowship in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery.

Lenke joined the faculty in 1992, focusing his clinical practice and research on the surgical treatment of pediatric and adult patients with complex spinal deformities. During his tenure in St. Louis, he hosted more than 800 spine surgeons from the United States and more than 40 other countries who came to learn his surgical techniques in treating spinal deformity patients.

In recent years, Elizabeth Lenke has focused her attention on family and nonprofit organizations. She has served on the boards of and in leadership positions for multiple organizations both in St. Louis and the greater New York region, including the Washington University Health Administration Program Alumni Association; Shooting Star Productions, a children’s theater group; the St. Louis Learning Disability Association; the Magic House; and Villa Duchesne and Oak Hill School. Since moving to New York, she has joined the board of trustees at Felician University, in Rutherford, N.J., and also is active in New York Cares and the St. Vincent DePaul Society at the Church of St. Paul the Apostle in Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

The Lenkes have been married for 30 years and have three grown children, Lauren, Bradley and Erin, all of whom were raised in St. Louis.

Mark Beaven
From left, spine surgery specialist Lawrence G. Lenke, MD, Elizabeth Lenke and spine surgery specialist Jacob M. Buchowski, MD, the Lenke Distinguished Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery.

Washington University School of Medicine’s 1,500 faculty physicians also are the medical staff of Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals. The School of Medicine is a leader in medical research, teaching and patient care, ranking among the top 10 medical schools 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.

Jim retired from Washington University in 2023. While at WashU, Jim covered psychiatry and neuroscience, pain and opioid research, orthopedics, diabetes, obesity, nutrition and aging. He formerly worked at KWMU (now St. Louis Public Radio) as a reporter and anchor, and his stories from the Midwest also were broadcast on NPR. Jim hosted the School of Medicine's Show Me the Science podcast, which highlights the outstanding research, education and clinical care underway at the School of Medicine. He has a bachelor's degree in English literature from the University of Missouri-St. Louis.