Our History

The Division of Allergy and Immunology was founded in the early 1960s by Dr. Charles Parker, a clinician and researcher widely recognized for his work in identifying the basis for penicillin allergy and for defining the structure of leukotrienes, major mediators of the inflammatory response in asthma and other allergic disorders. Continuing in that tradition, our physicians provide state-of-the-art clinical care based on leading-edge research.

The Division of Allergy and Immunology at Washington University School of Medicine was among the first Divisions of a Department of Medicine solely devoted to the care of patients with atopic diseases and research into the diagnosis and management of allergic disease in the country. Our training program in Allergy and Immunology is the third oldest in the nation.

Harry-Alexander-1951

Medical house staff (1951): Seated front row center is Dr. Harry L. Alexander, who set up the first allergy clinic in the Midwest at Barnes Hospital and began training physicians in the sub-specialty of allergy. Second from right is John Shapleigh. Standing second row, third from left is Don Finger, second from right is Harold Joseph. Source: Bernard Becker Medical Library

The field of allergy was largely initiated in the U.S. by Dr. Robert Cooke, who standardized allergy skin testing procedures and popularized allergy immunotherapy. Dr. Harry Alexander, who trained under Cooke, set up the first allergy clinic in the mid-west at Barnes Hospital and began training physicians in the sub-specialty of allergy.

Washington University School of Medicine was also an early leader in the field of Immunology. Dr. Charles Parker a trained immunochemist, who was a house officer in Internal Medicine at Barnes Hospital and the Medicine Chief Resident, established the Division of Allergy and Immunology within the Department of Medicine and combined the Division with the Allergy Clinics at Barnes Hospital and The Jewish Hospital of St. Louis.

Since the establishment of the Division, an enviable number of physician-clinicians, physicians-scientists and immunologists have been trained and hold high positions within the academic and clinical communities. The Division of Allergy and Immunology (in combination with the Division of Pediatric Allergy, Immunology, and Pulmonary Medicine and the Division of Pediatric Rheumatology in the Department of Pediatrics and St. Louis Children’s Hospital) is now well established as one of the premier training programs in the U.S.