Ritchlin to Lead Allergy, Immunology, Rheumatology Division

Jul. 15, 2013
Christopher Ritchlin, M.D., M.P.H.

Effective immediately, Christopher T. Ritchlin, M.D., M.P.H, assumes his new role as chief of Division of Allergy, Immunology and Rheumatology at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

A leader in field of bone-destroying psoriatic arthritis (an oft-forgotten cousin to its better known counterparts, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis), Ritchlin was first recruited to URMC in 1991, beginning a colorful, two-decade tenure of innovative patient care and research.

In 2008 Ritchlin led GRAPPA, the Group for Research and Assessment of Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis, in their pioneering effort to codify the first-ever international guidelines for the treatment of the disease. In 2011, he was invited to be the rheumatologist face and voice behind world class pro-golfer and psoriatic arthritis patient Phil Mickelson’s “On Course with Phil” campaign, a disease education program for people with chronic inflammatory joint and skin conditions.

Ever an innovator, Ritchlin also is one of three co-founders of URMC's dedicated Psoriasis Center, one of the few recognized multidisciplinary psoriasis centers in the country. The Center tackles the disease from a 360-degree perspective that not only focuses on disease’s hallmark skin lesions, but also the attendant joint pain, psychological component, and more. In fact, the Center is the only clinic in the country where patients are seen simultaneously by a dermatologist, psychiatrist and rheumatologist. The Center also folds clinical research activities into the care mix, giving patients access to cutting-edge investigational therapies.

“After a national search, it became abundantly clear that Chris was far and away the best candidate to lead out Allergy, Immunology and Rheumatology division,” said URMC’s Paul C. Levy, M.D., Charles A. Dewey Professor and chair of the Department of Medicine. “His superb clinical skill and impressive translational research program—built over the past decade—lay a firm foundation for the group. And as our institution braces for the opportunities and challenges posed by health care reform, Chris is absolutely the right person to help us forge new models of collaborative, high-value patient care.”

Beyond his basic science research efforts, aimed at better understanding the mechanisms driving bone resorption and formation cycles in arthritic patients, Ritchlin directs URMC’s Clinical Immunology Research Unit. His team has developed biomarkers that will help clinicians forecast which patients with the red, flaky skin disorder (psoriasis) are most likely to suffer from the arthritic disease that sometimes follows. He also heads up one of the six sites comprising the International Psoriatic Arthritis (IPART) database – a registry funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, pooling data from nearly 4,000 psoriasis and 13,000 psoriatic arthritis patients across Canada and the U.S. A sought-after industry consultant, Ritchlin frequently shares insights with major pharmaceutical companies developing new therapies.

He expressed his excitement to take the helm.

“Over the past decade, the division has made impressive strides, establishing centers of clinical excellence and translational research in lupus, psoriatric arthritis and Sjogren’s syndrome. Collaborating with the Center for Musculoskeletal Research, division members have even engineered new models of understanding disease ‘flares’ in rheumatoid arthritis—models that will likely pave way for new therapies,” he said. “It’s an exciting time, and there’s more to come.”

Ritchlin, who completed undergraduate studies here at the University of Rochester, earned his medical degree from Albany Medical College and completed an internal medicine residency followed by a year as chief residentat Mount Sinai Medical Center, a rheumatology fellowship at New York University Langone Medical Center, and then a musculoskeletal research fellowship at the Shriners Hospital in Montreal. In 2008, he added a Masters in Public Health in Clinical Investigation from the University of Rochester. 

He is an active member of the scientific advisory committee for the National Psoriasis Foundation, a steering committee member for the Spondyloarthritis Association of North America, and maintains active roles steering and planning professional meetings for the American College of Rheumatology.