WU Nephrology Fellow, 1979-1981
WU Nephrology Faculty, 1981-1983

Thomas Pohlman, MD, is on a mission. He is working with Mabel Purkerson, MD, to write a history of Washington University’s Division of Nephrology to be completed in time for the 70th anniversary of the division in 2026. The two are perfect partners as both are ardent history buffs. “I had given a lecture on the history of dialysis in 2019, and I mentioned to her that
we should document the remarkable history of the renal division,” said Dr. Pohlman. “She was incredibly enthusiastic as long as I would be her willing collaborator.”

The two now are moving at a frenetic pace to gather information and talk with faculty members such as Eduardo Slatopolsky, Herb Lubowitz, and former division chief Marc Hammerman, among others. “Dr. Hammerman did an interview with Neal Bricker a few years
ago that we also have reviewed,” said Dr. Pohlman. “We still have a long way to go, but I think we can have this project finished in time.”

Dr. Pohlman and Mabel Purkerson, MD, discuss the latest information for a book
the two are writing on the history of the Division of Nephrology at Washington
University School of Medicine.

Dr. Pohlman has a strong connection to WashU. He is a former medical student, nephrology fellow and faculty member and served as the medical director of the hemodialysis unit at the Jewish Hospital of St. Louis from 1981 to 1983. He also is the founding director of the hospital’s Continuous Ambulatory Peritoneal Dialysis (CAPD) program. After moving
to Kentucky briefly he returned to St. Louis to St. Luke’s Hospital in Chesterfield, where
he remains today as Chief of Nephrology and a member of the core faculty for the
hospital’s Residency in Internal Medicine Program. “Almost all of the nephrology
faculty at St. Luke’s came from WashU — Paul Mennes, Steven Bander, Anibal Melo,
Sadaf Sheikh and myself,” he said. “One of our proudest accomplishments is that we
have guided several residents here into nephrology, including Drs. Anitha
Vijayan and Reena Gurung at WashU.”

Of his own memories, he remembers his medical school nephrology rotation with Dr. Lubowitz, who lit a spark for Dr. Pohlman to pursue a career in the field. Aubrey Morrison was
an early research mentor as was Jesse Yates, an African American biochemist and chief technician in both Bricker’s and Saulo Klahr’s labs. He laughs as he recalls getting married to his wife, Elsie, in 1980. “I was assured by Dr. Klahr that I could take as long as I liked for my
honeymoon,” he said. “We were married on a Friday and went on our honeymoon to Lake of the Ozarks the next two days. I called in on Monday, July 1 to check when I was needed to be back to start my second year as a fellow and I was told I could take as long as I liked, but I was on call that night!”

Dr. Pohlman and his wife, Elsie Winstead, MD, share a love of gardening.

As for leisure time, Dr. Pohlman’s hobbies revolve around his family and his garden, where he grows vegetables and fresh flowers to put on the kitchen table almost year round.

The Pohlmans are shown below on vacation in Scotland at one of several castles they visited. Ever the history buff, Dr. Pohlman also made a side trip to Glascow to see the statue
and memorial of Thomas Graham. Dr. Pohlman notes that Graham, called by
some the “Father of Dialysis,” is credited with describing the diffusion of gases and
liquids across a semipermeable membrane and the first use of the word dialysis.

Stay tuned, he says — The history project is moving along and he, along with Dr. Purkerson, are on the hunt for more memories and information.