Our division’s history begins with the establishment of the Rackham Arthritis Research Unit, one of the oldest and one of the most distinguished research organizations in the United States exclusively devoted to the study of arthritis. The research and fellowship training that took place at the Rackham Unit contributed much to the early stages of Rheumatology. In 1937, the Trustees of the Horace H. Rackham and Mary A. Rackham Fund gave $1,000,000 to establish the Rackham Arthritis Research Unit devoted to the prevention, cure, and mitigation of arthritis.
Richard Freyberg, MD, becomes the first director of the Rackham Arthritis Research Unit. In 1938, Charley J. Smyth, MD, becomes the first fellow at the Unit.
In 1944, William D. Robinson, MD, takes over as the director of the Rackham Arthritis Research Unit, after Dr. Freyberg leaves to become Physician-in-Chief at The Hospital for Special Surgery in New York. By April 1946, the Unit had published 37 articles and books and was gaining widespread recognition. In 1958, Dr. Robinson is named Chair of the Department of Internal Medicine and served in that role until 1975.
In 1953, Ivan F. Duff, MD, follows as director of the Rackham Unit. He is succeed by Giles G. Bole, MD, in 1969.
In 1960, the Rheumatology Division was established as a distinct parallel administrative unit as a component of the Department of Internal Medicine.
In 1975, Giles G. Bole, MD, becomes Chief of the Division of Rheumatology and later, Dr. Bole assumes the position of Dean of the Medical School in 1991.
In 1990, David A. Fox, MD, is appointed Chief of the Division of Rheumatology. He held this position until 2018 when he decided to step down as division chief to focus on his already highly successful research program. His major research interest has been the pathogenesis of rheumatoid arthritis, including interactions between T lymphocytes and synovial fibroblasts - the joint-lining cells. He has developed monoclonal antibodies to characterize several new structures on the surface of lymphocytes and on cells found in the inflamed joint. He has also been involved in multiple clinical trials of immunomodulatory and biologic agents for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus, and scleroderma. This work has led to more than 230 scientific papers and book chapters, which have been cited more than 9,700 times in scientific literature.