Mount Sinai and the History of Rheumatology

Rheumatology as a medical specialty has a long and impressive history at The Mount Sinai Health System. In 1924, Doctors Emanuel Libman and Benjamin Sacks first described the heart lesions that occur in patients with lupus erythematosus, an autoimmune disease.

In 1935, Dr. George Baehr discovered that exposure to the sun damaged kidney function in patients with lupus. Seven years later, in 1942, Dr. Paul Klemperer developed the term "diffuse collagen disease" to describe changes in connective tissue (tendons, joints, ligaments, cartilage, etc.) in patients with scleroderma, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and related disorders.

In the early 1950s, one of the first gout clinics in the United States was established at The Mount Sinai Hospital by Dr. Alexander Gutman, former Chairman of the Department of Medicine, with the help of Emeritus Professor Dr. Tsai-Fan Yu. In a landmark report published in 1961, the effectiveness of treatment with colchicine [KOL-chi-seen] against recurrent attacks of acute gout was documented by Drs. Yu and Gutman. Colchicine is a plant compound that suppresses the localized inflammation experienced by patients with gout.

In the 1970s, medical education in Rheumatology was added to the curriculum of the Icahn School of Medicine thanks to the efforts of Dr. Harry Spiera, who established the Rheumatology Training Program. Under Dr. Spiera’s capable direction, Mount Sinai became a major referral center for difficult-to-treat autoimmune disorders including giant cell arteritis, scleroderma, and Sjogren's syndrome.

Currently, Peter Gorevic, MD, along with Harry Spiera, MD, and Leslie Kerr, MD, has spearheaded a strong commitment to research and treatment of rheumatoid disorders among geriatric patients.

This drive is further reflected in the interdisciplinary physician training undertaken with the Department of Geriatrics and Adult Development at Mount Sinai, as well as in Dr. Gorevic's application of his expertise and longstanding research interest in diseases of the aging and in amyloid diseases.