Division of Rheumatology


  • Director, Division of Rheumatology
  • Director, Rheumatology Fellowship Program
  • Magee Professor in Medicine
Organization: Department of Medicine


Name: Division of Rheumatology

211 South Ninth Street
Suite 210
Philadelphia, PA 19107

Contact Number(s):

Division History

A Division of Rheumatology within the Department of Medicine at Thomas Jefferson University was formed in 1959, under Dr. Nathan Smukler’s leadership. In 1967, Dr. John Abruzzo was the second full-time faculty member to join the division. A fellowship program was established in 1968. The first trainees were Drs. Walter Schwarzchild and Vincent Giuliano. By 1982, a trainee was accepted every year, rather than every 2 years. The first woman fellow was Dr. Celia Fernandez in 1985.

In his chapter (PDF) on the history of the division, Dr. Smukler notes:

“Jefferson’s history of rheumatology is replete with contributions in literature, teaching and patient care…  The pioneer rheumatologists at Jefferson were succeeded in the 1980s by full time investigators. Drs. Sergio Jimenez, John Varga and Reza Bashey provided research skills for the rheumatology program as well as for other departments engaged in the comprehensive studies of collagen and diseases marked by collagen defects and progressive fibrosis. The trio was ranked among the two most productive groups in investigation of scleroderma.”

Even prior to the recognition of rheumatology as an established subspecialty, as early as in 1880, Jefferson physicians focused on the rheumatic diseases. Dr. Smukler notes:

“Roberts Bartholow, Professor of Materia Medica and member of the faculty at Jefferson, wrote an elegant detailed description of the rheumatic diseases that constituted a chapter of his textbook Practice of Medicine... In 1886 representatives from Philadelphia hospitals, presented their treatment programs for the rheumatic diseases. Drs. J.M. DaCosta and Bartholow represented Jefferson. Dr. Longstreth, Dr. William Osler of the University of Pennsylvania and Dr. James Tyson of the Philadelphia hospital also contributed. The main focus on the discussion was directed to rheumatic fever. It was generally agreed that salicylates were useful in controlling the articular but not the cardiac manifestations.

In 1914, Dr. Solomon Solis-Cohen, Professor of Clinical Medicine at Jefferson, authored a  

paper that represented the first report in the English literature of the rheumatic entity later called palindromic arthritis. Dr. Abraham Cohen was one of the pioneer rheumatologists in the United States. He was a member of the staff of Jefferson Hospital with special interest in its arthritis clinic from 1931 until his death in 1969. He published the first definitive description of gout arthritis in black Americans, in 1941. Dr. Cohen’s effort with a trial of nitrogen mustard for patients with rheumatoid arthritis was prophetic. From 1946 to 1956 Dr. Richard Smith served as Chief of the Rheumatology outpatient clinic. Drs. Irvin Hermann, Roy Hays, Edward Mazur, Howard Lorenz, John Blizzard and Leon Weiner also participated in the Jefferson Arthritis Clinic.”


Building on the history and reputation of the Division, the current faculty continues to focus and expand on the clinical, teaching and research endeavors of the pioneers. The Jefferson Scleroderma and Lupus Centers of Excellence, established by Drs. Jimenez and DeHoratius respectively, were the first disease-focused Centers of Excellence in Philadelphia and among the first nationally. Dr. Fabian Mendoza Balesteros is now leading the clinical and research efforts in scleroderma and Dr. Marianthi Kiriakidou expanded the scope of the Lupus Center to include basic and translational research in addition to providing expert clinical care. Dr. Michele Meltzer is developing a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC), along with the educational services at Thomas Jefferson University, to enhance the curriculum in rheumatology at medical schools in areas with limited resources.

Division Directors

Marianthi Kiriakidou, MD (2015- present)
Oscar Irigoyen, MD (2007- 2015)
Sergio Jimenez, MD (1992-2007)
John Abruzzo, MD (1980-1992)
Nathan Smukler, MD (1959-1980)

Other Early Members of the Faculty

Ronald Restifo (1967-1972)
John Patterson (1961)
Ralph DeHoratius (1974)
Bruce Smith (1981)
Henry Scovern (1982)