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Lowe named Colten Professor of Pediatric Science

Noted gastroenterologist was mentored by the former department head

by Kristina SauerweinFebruary 15, 2019

Mark Beaven

Mark E. Lowe, MD, PhD, an admired physician and researcher in pediatric gastroenterology, has been named the inaugural Harvey R. Colten Professor of Pediatric Science at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Early in his medical career, Lowe counted Colten — a revered former head of the pediatrics department — as one of his mentors.

Vice chair of clinical affairs and strategic planning in the Department of Pediatrics, Lowe was installed by Chancellor 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.

Led by a principal gift from Colten’s widow, Sue Colten, the position is funded by family, friends, colleagues and mentees of Harvey R. Colten, MD, as well as by the Department of Pediatrics and its head, Gary A. Silverman, MD, PhD, the Harriet B. Spoehrer Professor. Colten was a nationally recognized pediatric immunologist who headed the university’s pediatrics department from 1986 to 1997. During Colten’s tenure, he led a team of researchers who found a genetic link to a form of respiratory failure in newborns. He died in 2007.

“Dr. Lowe is the ideal person for this professorship,” Wrighton said. “Both Drs. Colten and Lowe have elevated the field of pediatrics, as well as Washington University, with their superb clinical and research skills. Through this professorship, Harvey Colten’s legacy lives on.”

Lowe’s research on childhood gastroenterological disorders, which is funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has focused on acute and chronic pancreatitis in children and poor growth in infants. He is a leading international expert on the pancreatic enzyme, lipase, and its molecular role in dietary fat absorption.

Since becoming a vice chair in 2017, Lowe has focused on expanding pediatric outpatient programs to satellite facilities throughout the region, restructuring outpatient clinics, improving access to health care for patients, and facilitating better communication among pediatricians. He also treats patients at St. Louis Children’s Hospital.

“Dr. Colten was a brilliant scientist and visionary leader in academic medicine,” said Perlmutter, who trained under Colten and keeps in touch with the Colten family. “We are thrilled to honor his impact at Washington University and to name Dr. Lowe as the inaugural holder of the professorship in his honor. Not only is Dr. Lowe a gifted clinician and scientist, but he is a distinguished and compassionate educator, mentor and administrator.”

Lowe began his academic career at Washington University, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in biology in 1973. He earned his doctorate in biochemistry in 1977 from the University of Pennsylvania before accepting a five-year position at the NIH. He earned his medical degree from the University of Miami in 1984.

He completed his residency and fellowship at St. Louis Children’s Hospital and then joined the faculty at Washington University. He remained at the School of Medicine until 2003, when he went to the University of Pittsburgh. He then returned to Washington University in 2017.

In November, Lowe was named a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world’s largest general scientific society.

“I am honored and humbled to hold the chair that celebrates and recognizes the life and career of Dr. Colten, my first department head and a mentor to me and many others who are working to pass on his wisdom and insight to the next generation,” Lowe said.

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.

Kristina covers pediatrics, surgery, medical education and student life. In 2020, she received a gold Robert G. Fenley Writing Award for general staff writing from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), and in 2019, she received the silver award. Kristina is an author and former reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the Los Angeles Times, where she was part of a team of journalists that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2004 for breaking news. Additionally, she covered the 2014 Ferguson unrest for TIME magazine and, for eight years, wrote a popular parenting column for