New Century

A new generation of leaders

With the premature demise of Dr. Avioli, in November 1999, the leadership passed on to Dr. Roberto Pacifici on an interim basis until 2001, when Dr. Dwight A. Towler was appointed as the new Division Chief, a position he held for almost one decade.

Dr. Towler later moved on to a new endowed chair position at UT Soutwestern Medical Center, Dallas, TX.  Dr. Towler, a Washington University trainee, was interested in mechanisms of heterotopic calcification, and more recently, in valve and vascular calcification in arteriosclerosis and chronic kidney failure.

Under his leadership, the Division continued its history of outstanding research contributions to the field of bone and mineral research, reinvigorated by the recruitment, in 2001-2002, of research oriented new investigators, namely Dr. Deborah V. Novack, who focuses on the alternative NF-κB regulatory pathway in osteoclast-mediated bone loss and skeletal disease arising from arthritis and metastatic cancer; and Dr. Fanxin Long, a developmental biologist interested in cell signaling in skeletal development and control of energy metabolism in osteoblast biology. Dr. Long later transitioned to the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, and continues to interact with our Division faculty and trainees.

During a time of rapidly changing environment in the health care sector, the Division continued to grow its clinical operations, and the Bone Health Program expanded its services to Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital, under the leadership of Dr. Kathryn Diemer, who continues to function as its Medical Director.

Moving forward

In February 2010, Dr. Roberto Civitelli succeeded Dr. Towler as Chief of the Division of Bone and Mineral Diseases.

Roberto Civitelli, MD

Roberto Civitelli, MD

Under Dr. Civitelli’s leadership, the Division has undergone a re-birth and substantial expansion of its research, teaching and clinical operations.

Patient referrals to the Bone Health Program have grown exponentially, and new clinicians have been recruited; first Dr. Carolyn Morris-Jachna, a physician with expertise in osteoporosis and a previous trainee in our center; then Dr. Naga Yalla, an endocrinologist who trained in our center and has now become an expert in metabolic bone disorders.

Two part-time physicians have also joined the Bone Health Program, Drs. James Avery and Laura Colletti, both enriching our program with a primary care angle and expertise.

The constant growth in referrals and patient volumes led to further expansion of the Bone Health Program to a third site, in the Center for Advanced Medicine South County, in mid-2016.

Likewise, the Division research activities have expanded.

In 2010, Dr. Gabriel Mbalaviele joined our faculty, after transitioning from an industry position, and developed a new line of research on the role of innate immunity in bone remodeling and disease.

A new, NIH-funded Skeletal Disorders Training Program was established in 2011, thus resuming a tradition of leadership in education and training in metabolic skeletal disorders.

In early 2012, the Division laboratories and administrative offices moved to a new location, on the 11th floor of the BJC Institute of Health, along with the Orthopaedic Surgery research laboratory, in an interdisciplinary partnership that established a new Washington University Musculoskeletal Research Center.

Erica Scheller, DDS, PhD, Timothy Peterson, PhD, Clarissa Craft, PhD

Left to Right: Erica Scheller, DDS, PhD, Timothy Peterson, PhD, Clarissa Craft, PhD

In 2016, the Division welcomed three new research faculty: Dr. Erica Scheller, who is interested in neuronal regulation of bone and the role of bone marrow fat; Dr. Timothy Peterson, who studies genes that drive skeletal development, homeostasis and response to therapy; and Dr. Clarissa Craft, who focuses on how the extracellular milieu affects cellular energy metabolism, bone marrow adipocytes and bone turnover.

Moving forward, the Division of Bone and Mineral Diseases remains fully committed to carrying on the heritage, philosophy and mission of its founder, building upon the enthusiasm, scientific curiosity, creativity and outstanding expertise of its faculty and its clinical and technical staff.