Rheumatology, Allergy and Immunology

Rheumatology, Allergy and Immunology comprises a combined division with allergy and rheumatology sections. The rheumatology section has had a longstanding focus upon rheumatoid arthritis. The division began with a 1930s conversation between a chief of medicine and a young faculty member. The chairman, William Branch Porter suggested “Why don’t you try to work with the arthritis patients; no one else is doing much to help them.”

The target of this suggestion, Elam Toone, M.D., started the unit and recruited its second faculty member; Robert W. Irby, M.D. Irby became the first chief of rheumatology at Walter Reed before returning to join Toone. Both became masters of the ACR, American College of Rheumatology. Toone engaged an influential Richmonder, Russell Cecil, M.D., (Textbook of Medicine) to form what became the Arthritis Foundation Chapter in Virginia and a source of funding for the research efforts.

Charles W. Thomas, M.D., a general practitioner, himself a patient with rheumatoid arthritis, endowed research efforts of the division, facilitating the laboratory contributions of the second rheumatology program director Shaun Ruddy, M.D. Ruddy discovered beta 1-H of the complement system, a polymorphism of which was proven in 2006 to contribute the genetic component of macular degeneration. He later served as ACR President, becoming the division’s third ACR Master.

From the beginning, the major interest of the patients, clinicians and patrons of the division have revolved around improving the outcome for patients with rheumatoid arthritis through clinical care, research and public service, including philanthropy.

The clinical practice in the Division of Rheumatology, Allergy and Immunology is mostly in the ambulatory care setting, with approximately 8,000 patient visits annually in rheumatology and 1,000 visits in allergy and immunology in the faculty practice offices located in the Ambulatory Care Center on the MCV Campus.