In Memoriam: Harvey R. Colten, M.D., Pediatric Immunologist

NEW YORK – Harvey R. Colten, M.D., a former member of the medical center administration, died on Thursday, May 24, 2007. Dr. Colten was a renowned clinician, educator, and researcher who joined Columbia University Medical Center as a vice president in 2002 to administer our research and academic programs. He was also a professor in the Department of Pediatrics, an appointment he continued to hold following his three-year role in administration.

“Dr. Colten’s impact spanned many areas of the CUMC enterprise,” said Lee Goldman, M.D., executive vice president of Columbia University and dean of the faculties of medicine at Columbia University Medical Center.

“His leadership in research administration added immeasurable value to key areas of our research infrastructure, including the Institutional Review Board, the Clinical Trials Office and our animal care operations. In academic affairs, his thinking helped in refining our criteria for faculty appointments, promotions, and searches. In education, he continued to have the strong focus which he had demonstrated at Harvard, Washington University, Northwestern and the University of California at San Francisco,” said Dr. Goldman.

In the late 1990s, Dr. Colten was dean and vice president for medical affairs at Northwestern University Medical School. Before joining Columbia, he was a clinical professor of pediatrics at UCSF and the chief medical officer at iMetrikus Inc., a Web-based firm linking patients, providers, and healthcare companies. He was professor and chairman of the Department of Pediatrics at Washington University School of Medicine from 1986-97.

Dr. Colten was an NIH investigator before joining the faculty of the Harvard Medical School in 1979. There he was a professor of pediatrics and chief of the Division of Cell Biology, Pulmonary Medicine, and director of the cystic fibrosis program at Children’s Hospital in Boston.

A member of the Institute of Medicine and former vice chairman of the IOM Council, Dr. Colten authored more than 270 original articles, book chapters, and invited reviews on the subject of regulation of gene expression and genetic deficiencies of proteins that play a major role in pulmonary diseases, autoimmunity, and inflammation. His work improved understanding of how the immune system functions and of the body’s inflammatory responses. He advanced the care and treatment of cystic fibrosis and other respiratory diseases in children.

He trained more than 60 investigators in pediatric allergy/immunology, pulmonology, and related scientific topics, and many of his trainees went on to leadership positions in academic medicine both nationally and internationally.

At Columbia, his interest in medical education was expressed in his role in developing the Glenda Garvey Teaching Academy, the only one of its kind that includes faculty from public health, nursing, dentistry, and medicine.

“While we salute Harvey’s contributions to science, academic medicine, and our medical center, we also send our condolences to his family and to the colleagues with whom he worked during his long and illustrious career,” said Gerald D. Fischbach, M.D., the John E. Borne Professor of Medical and Surgical Research and former Executive Vice President for Health and Biomedical Sciences at Columbia University.

Harvey Colten was a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Academy of Allergy and Immunology, and the American Academy of Pediatrics and a member of the American Society for Clinical Investigation, the Association of American Physicians, and the American Association of Immunologists. He was active in the membership and leadership of several other organizations and influential boards. He also served on the editorial boards and advisory committees of leading scientific and medical journals, including the New England Journal of Medicine, the Journal of Clinical Investigation, and the Journal of Pediatrics. A graduate of Cornell University, he received his M.D. from what is now Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.

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Columbia University Medical Center provides international leadership in basic, pre-clinical and clinical research, in medical and health sciences education, and in patient care. The medical center trains future leaders and includes the dedicated work of many physicians, scientists, nurses, dentists, and public health professionals at the College of Physicians & Surgeons, the Mailman School of Public Health, the College of Dental Medicine, the School of Nursing, the biomedical departments of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and allied research centers and institutions.


Clinical Trials Office, Columbia University, Dental Medicine, Institutional Review Board, San Francisco