Gary A. Silverman, MD, PhD, has been named the Harriet B. Spoehrer Professor and head of the Department of Pediatrics at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. With the new appointment, effective in April, Silverman will become pediatrician-in-chief at St. Louis Children’s Hospital and executive director of the Children’s Discovery Institute, a partnership of the school and hospital.
A highly regarded neonatologist, Silverman comes to St. Louis from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, where he is vice chair for basic research in the school’s Department of Pediatrics and at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.
He also is the Twenty-Five Club Professor of Pediatrics, Cell Biology and Physiology at the School of Medicine and division chief of newborn medicine at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh and Magee-Womens Hospital. Both hospitals are part of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC).
Silverman succeeds Alan L. Schwartz, PhD, MD, who has led the Department of Pediatrics since 1995. Schwartz will remain on the faculty and devote more time to national leadership commitments, mentoring faculty and trainees, and to his research.
Silverman’s appointment was announced by Larry J. Shapiro, MD, executive vice chancellor for medical affairs and dean of the School of Medicine.
“I am pleased to welcome Gary Silverman, a national leader in newborn medicine, especially in the treatment of premature and critically ill infants,” Shapiro said. “I am confident that under his leadership, the Department of Pediatrics will continue to grow and distinguish itself as a top pediatric program in clinical, research and educational excellence. I am grateful to Alan Schwartz for his commitment to the university and his steadfast guidance of the department over the past 20 years.”
Silverman is no stranger to Washington University. He completed a fellowship in newborn medicine at St. Louis Children’s Hospital in 1989 and was a postdoctoral research fellow at the School of Medicine from 1988-91, training in the laboratory of the late Stanley J. Korsmeyer, MD, an internationally known cancer researcher.
“It is a great honor to be returning to Washington University School of Medicine and St. Louis Children’s Hospital,” Silverman said. “These are world-class institutions with exceptional talent, and I can’t wait to roll up my sleeves and join this team of outstanding professionals.
“I hope to expand upon the delivery of exceptional cutting-edge care to all children in need and to continue this institution’s excellence in medical education and community outreach,” Silverman said. “Another crucial mission is to build upon the expertise of the Children’s Discovery Institute while leveraging the entire Washington University biomedical research enterprise to help usher in a transformative era of child health care.”
Earlier, while studying molecular genetics in the Korsmeyer lab, Silverman also was an instructor of pediatrics and, later, an assistant professor of pediatrics before moving to Harvard Medical School in 1992. There, he served on the faculty for 12 years and was also director of the division of newborn medicine at Boston Children’s Hospital.
Silverman then joined the University of Pittsburgh medical faculty, where he merged his clinical expertise with his love for basic science discovery to aid young patients.
Silverman’s research program has been at the forefront of elucidating the genetic basis of diseases, especially those affecting newborns. Most recently, his laboratory established disease models in the primitive roundworm C. elegans and developed high-throughput screening platforms to identify causative disease factors and novel therapeutic drugs.
This approach has led to several new drugs for the genetic disease alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, which can cause liver and lung disease in children and adults. These drugs potentially may be effective treatments for other diseases caused by misfolded proteins, including neurodegenerative disorders. The screening platform also is being used to discover new therapeutic drugs for necrotizing enterocolitis, a devastating intestinal disease that affects premature infants.
Silverman has conducted research in collaboration with David H. Perlmutter, MD, the School of Medicine’s incoming dean, a fellow professor of pediatrics and cell biology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and physician-in-chief and scientific director at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.
“Many rare and old pediatric diseases will be redefined by their genetic underpinnings, thereby leading to dramatic new therapies that could not have been imagined a few years ago,” Silverman said.
A 1978 graduate of Washington and Jefferson College in Washington, Pa., Silverman earned his doctorate in immunology and pathology in 1982 from the University of Chicago and his medical degree in 1984 from the institution’s Pritzker School of Medicine. He completed his internship and residency in pediatrics at Boston Children’s Hospital.
Silverman has received dozens of awards and honors throughout his career for work involving, among other things, biomedicine, birth defects and oncology. He is the author of more than 110 peer-reviewed scientific papers and more than 25 book chapters, and has served in a variety of roles for several scientific organizations.