Dr. Joel Richter leads USF’s GI program, Swallowing Disorders Center

For Joel E. Richter, MD, serious consideration and a bit of serendipity went into his coming to the University of South Florida.

 Dr. Joel Richter in the Ambulatory Surgery Center at the Morsani Center.

He was at a crossroads in his career and was just beginning to think about the direction he wanted to go when he heard about an opportunity opening up at USF: Worth Boyce, MD, was retiring as the Hugh F. Culverhouse Chair for Esophagology and director of the Joy McCann Culverhouse Center for Swallowing Disorders.

“Worth is nationally revered for his teaching and clinical care, so I knew that filling a program he had built would be a fantastic opportunity,” said Dr. Richter, who at that point was chairing the Department of Medicine at Temple University School of Medicine.

The timing was indeed right. In September, Dr. Richter joined USF as the Hugh F. Culverhouse Chair for Esophagology at the USF College of Medicine, director of the Division of Digestive Diseases and Nutrition, and director of the Joy McCann Culverhouse Center for Swallowing Disorders.

“My family and I are thrilled to be here and I’m very optimistic about expanding on USF’s strong GI program and continuing a legacy of excellence in the Joy McCann Culverhouse Center for Swallowing Disorders,” he said.

“Dr. Richter defines the entrepreneurial academic physician.  He brings us an ideal talent for blending, balancing and building the clinical care and the research in our entire GI program,” said Dr. Stephen Klasko, dean of the USF College of Medicine and CEO of USF Health. “We’re very fortunate to have attracted him, and I thank Dr. Worth Boyce, who has built an internationally recognized swallowing program, and Dr. Pat Brady, who has done an excellent job of leading the GI division.  Together they provided a strong foundation for drawing this level of expertise.”

A perfect career means a perfect fit
Dr. Richter’s career is steeped in the study of esophageal diseases. He has authored or coauthored nearly 300 original papers, 121 editorials and reviews, 11 books, and 109 book chapters. His research interests include gastroesophageal reflux disease, achalasia, Barrett’s esophagus, esophageal chest pain and eosinophilic esophagitis.

Dr. Richter received his MD from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas and completed his internship at the Naval Regional Medical Center, Philadelphia, PA.  He went on to complete his residency in medicine and fellowship in medicine (gastroenterology) at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, MD.  Among past academic appointments, Dr. Richter chaired the Department of Gastroenterology at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation for 10 years and chaired Medicine at Temple University School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA, for seven years.

He is past president of the American College of Gastroenterology (ACG) and served as director, ACG, Institute for Clinical Research and Education from 1995 to 2004.  He is the recipient of several awards for his work in digestive diseases, including the Berk/Fise Lifetime Clinical Achievement Award from ACG, Joseph B. Kirsner Award in Gastroenterology (2000), the Janssen Award in Gastroenterology for Clinical Research in Digestive Diseases (2001), and The Samuel Weiss Award for Outstanding Service to the ACG (2001).  From 2002 to 2003, Dr. Richter served as president of the World Organization for Specialized Studies on Diseases of the Esophagus.  He was co-editor in chief for the American Journal of Gastroenterology from 2003-2009 and named multiple times to the Best Doctors in America for gastroenterology.

Dr. Richter will be seeing his patients in the Center for Swallowing Disorders and the Endoscopy Center at the Morsani Center for Advanced Healthcare. In addition to maintaining the clinical care and residency and fellowship components of the Division, Dr. Richter said he aims to build the Division’s research efforts.

“We have the perfect framework for building strong research for both patient-based research, as well as translational research efforts,” he said.

Building on history
USF’s pioneering research and clinical programs in digestive diseases, as well as its programs focusing on swallowing disorders, were built under the careful, adept and giving leadership of Dr. H. Worth Boyce.

Dr. H. Worth Boyce

Joining USF in 1975, Dr. Boyce directed the Division of Digestive Diseases and Nutrition from 1975 to 1990. Following the generous gift from Joy Culverhouse, the Joy McCann Culverhouse Center for Swallowing Disorders was founded in 1987 and Dr. Boyce was named its founding director.

The fully self-sufficient Center has grown to include the largest number of dedicated full-time staff of any swallowing center in the United States. In 1991, he was appointed the founding holder of the Hugh F. Culverhouse Chair for Esophagology. He retired in September and is now Professor Emeritus.

Story by Sarah A. Worth, photos by Eric Younghans, USF Health Office of Communications