For 50 years, Dr. Morris Reichlin took young physician-scientists under his wing and taught them how to bridge the gap between the laboratory and the clinic. But his real love lay with those directly affected by his life’s work—the patients fighting autoimmune diseases. To them, he was more than a doctor. He was a hero.
As the first head of OMRF’s Arthritis and Immunology Research Program, Dr. Morris Reichlin built a research team centered on creating meaningful relationships with colleagues, students and patients. Over the years, his program grew and prospered, logging countless discoveries, all in the name of helping lupus, Sjögren’s syndrome and myositis patients live longer, healthier lives.
Reichlin gained prominence when he developed a clinical test for lupus, a disease that causes the body’s own immune system to attack itself. The test he created—the Reichlin profile—gave physicians around the world an important tool to assist them in diagnosing the disease. Its development marked a milestone in diagnostic medicine.
Reichlin helped build OMRF into one of the world’s leading research centers for lupus research and treatment. Scientists in that program have identified more than 25 genes associated with the disease, and thousands of patients have received state-of-the-art treatment to help them manage their condition. The program Reichlin created now employs more than 150 staff members. Its clinical focus has also expanded to include treatment for multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases.
“Dr.Reichlin treated multiple generations of patients with rheumatic diseases, many for several decades,” says Dr. Judith James, who assumed leadership of the program (now known as Arthritis and Clinical Immunology) in 2010. “He cared about them as much as he cared for them. When he retired from the clinic and transferred many of their cases to me, they still considered themselves Dr. Reichlin’s patients. I’m sure they always will.”
During his career, Reichlin published nearly 500 scientific papers, lectured on five continents, served on numerous editorial and advisory boards and received many distinguished awards. At OMRF, he served as the foundation’s first vice president of research and was named an OMRF Distinguished Career Scientist in 2010.
In October, the journal The Rheumatologist paid tribute to Reichlin in its “Profiles in Rheumatology” series. “Patients were my guideline,” Reichlin says. “If it meant something to the patient, then it meant something to me, and I pursued it.”
The work that Reichlin began at OMRF continues today, says James. “Our program was born as a result of Dr. Reichlin’s vision and commitment to the success of his junior colleagues. His life-long interest in disease research remains our focus.”