Our pediatric nephrology division has a rich and storied history. We can trace our history all the way back to the early 1920 and late 1930s, when Drs. Alexis Hartmann and Henry Barnett — giants in our field — were graduates of our institution. Hartmann, one of the creators of what eventually became lactated Ringer’s solution, was a graduate of the Washington University School of Medicine (WUSM) in 1921, a resident at St. Louis Children’s Hospital (SLCH) from 1922-1924, then a faculty member from 1924-1964, including 28 years as department chair from 1936 to 1964. Barnett, for whom one of the lifetime achievement awards in pediatric nephrology is named, graduated from WUSM in 1938 and was a resident at SLCH in 1938 at our institution, before serving in World War II.

Historical photo of Alan Robson, MD with designation of Director

The Division of Pediatric Nephrology at Washington University School of Medicine and St. Louis Children’s Hospital (SLCH) was formally founded in 1967 by the then pediatric department chair Dr. Phillip Dodge. Dr. Alan Robson, pictured at right, had come from England to train in nephrology at the adjacent Barnes Hospital, and was the founding division director.

Robson served as the division director for the next 21 years. He had numerous accomplishments in his career, including being the founding editor of the journal Pediatric Nephrology, the president of the American Society of Pediatric Nephrology (ASPN) in 1979, the Washington University School of Medicine Alumni Achievement award in 2013, and serving as the president of the SLCH Medical Staff in 1983-84. Most importantly, he trained many major contributors to our field, including Drs. Julie Ingelfinger and Barbara Cole, featured in this 1970 house staff-fellows photo, as well as Dr. Eileen Brewer, the longtime division chief of Pediatric Nephrology at Texas Children’s Hospital. Brewer was elected as the president of the ASPN in 1998 and won the ASPN Founder’s Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2010. Ingelfinger went on to Boston where she headed the Pediatric Nephrology division at Massachusetts General Hospital for many years and is currently a deputy editor at New England Journal of Medicine. Ingelfinger was President of the ASPN in 1994, won the Henry Barnett Award for Lifetime Achievement from the American Academy of Pediatrics section of Nephrology in 2009 and won the ASPN Founder’s Award in 2012.

Photo of St. Louis Children's Hospital resident-fellows 1970-1971.  Includes Drs. Morris T. Bird, Barbara R. Cole, Florentina U. Garcia, Julie R. Ingelfinger, Stanley D. Johnson, and Ronald E. Keeney.

Cole became the second division director and served in this position from 1988 to 2001. She was elected as the president of the ASPN in 1990 and won the ASPN Founders Award for lifetime achievement in 2006. She also served as president of the SLCH medical staff from 1999 to 2001. Notable faculty members in the first three decades included former fellows Dr. William Schnaper (fellowship 1980-82), the former vice-chair of Pediatrics at Northwestern University, who also became the president of ASPN from 2010-12 and Dr. Matti Vehaskari (fellowship 1979-1981), who went to become the division director of Pediatric Nephrology at Children’s Hospital New Orleans and Louisiana State University.

Cole was succeeded as division director by Dr. Keith Hruska, who served in the position from 2001 to 2012 and remains as a faculty member in the division. Hruska has also been highly decorated, receiving the Resident/Fellow Achievement Award from the Washington University School of Medicine Alumni Association in 2014 and being elected as the president of the American Society of Bone and Mineral Research in 2011-12. Dr. Hruska won a lifetime service award from the American Society of Bone and Mineral Research in 2014.

Vikas Dharnidharka, MD, MPH now serves as the Division Director. He is the current chair of the Section of Nephrology within the AAP (2018-2022) and sits on the national governing Council for the American Society of Pediatric Nephrology (2020-2024).

Many of our fellows have gone on to distinguished careers. Besides Drs. Schnaper and Vehaskari above, Drs. Randy Kinstra (1972-1974) and Melvin-Bonilla-Felix (1989-1992) became Pediatrics Department chairs and Drs. Susan Conley (1975-1977), Deborah Keys-Folts (1988-1992) and Raoul Nelson (1989-1992) became pediatric nephrology division chiefs.  A complete list of fellows, with highest known position achieved, can be found on our Past Fellows page.