A leading force in Rheumatology for over 60 years.

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The UW Division of Rheumatology, originally known as the Division of Arthritis, was established in 1958 under the leadership of John L. Decker and consisted of only 2 Faculty members. After Dr. Decker’s departure to become Director of Rheumatic Disease at the NationaI Institute of Health in Bethesda, MD, Dr. Mart Mannik was recruited from Rockefeller University to become the new Division Head in 1967. He served in this role until his retirement in 2001.

Under Dr. Mannik’s Leadership the Division Faculty grew from 2 to 12 members and Rheumatology sites were established at the major teaching hospitals of the University of Washington. These sites include the UW Medical Center (UWMC)Harborview Medical Center (HMC)Veterans Administration Puget Sound Health Care System (VAPSHCS), and the UW Northwest Hospital (UW-NW). In 2001, Dr. Keith Elkon was recruited from the Hospital for Special Surgery, Weil Medical College of Cornell University to serve as Division Head. 


  • Major insights into the biochemistry and pathophysiology of immune complexes in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) and Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)
  • Inversion of the RA treatment pyramid with early induction and step-down therapy
  • Discovery of the high prevalence of RA among Native Americans and association with DR4
  • Identifying the role for microchimerism in initiating the pathogenic mechanisms of scleroderma
  • Biochemical dissection of Interferon pathways and innate immune cell processing
  • Insight into the role of apoptotic cells in the immune response to self antigens
  • Discovery of anti-C1q autoantibodies and association with lupus nephritis
  • Co-discovery of the PTPN22 risk allele in altered immune tolerance
  • Creation of novel therapies in clinical and preclinical studies

The Division Today 

Today the Division of Rheumatology has 35 Faculty members. The Fellowship program is nationally recognized as one of the longest NIH funded programs in the country and strives to offer exceptional training to future rheumatologists. The research training program in Rheumatology has trained over 120 rheumatologists since its inception. Many former trainees have considerable accomplishments in the Rheumatology community, including several who have become Division Heads at other academic medical centers.

Three of our Division members, Drs. Keith Elkon, Lee Nelson and Gordon Starkebaum are Masters of the American College of Rheumatology (ACR). According to the ACR, ‘The designation of Master is conferred on ACR members …. who have made outstanding contributions to the ACR and the field of rheumatology through scholarly achievement and/or service to their patients, students, and profession.”

2022 Division Retreat

2022 Division Retreat Group Pic

2022 Division Summer Party

2022 Division Summer Party

Research Pioneers & Lecture Series

In 2020, The Division of Rheumatology introduced the Research Pioneers at UW Rheumatology Lecture Series. The purpose of this series is to  feature and honor renowned researchers affiliated with the Division who have contributed to scientific breakthroughs in the realm of rheumatology. 

Division Heads

Dr. John Decker

Dr. John L. Decker

Division Head

Dr. Mart Mannik

Dr. Mart Mannik

Division Head

Dr. Keith Elkon

Dr. Keith Elkon

Division Head

Dr. Tomas Mustelin

Dr. Tomas Mustelin

Division Head