Towler named first holder of Avioli Professorship

By Ron Durham

Dr. Dwight A. Towler
Dr. Dwight A. Towler

Dr. Dwight A. Towler, Professor of Internal Medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center, has been named the inaugural holder of the Louis V. Avioli Professorship in Mineral Metabolism Research, made possible through generous support from the Charles Y.C. Pak Foundation.

The endowment honors Dr. Louis V. Avioli, a giant in the field of bone and mineral research and one of the founders of the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research. Dr. Avioli pioneered research into skeletal biology and methods for detecting vitamin D in the blood, and identified bone loss as a potentially curable condition.

Prior to his death in 1999, Dr. Avioli was considered one of the world’s leading medical authorities on osteoporosis and calcium metabolism. In addition to being an outstanding leader, he was an enthusiastic and engaging mentor for physician-scientists with interests in mineral metabolism.

“I am very grateful to the Pak Foundation, and honored to be the inaugural holder of the Avioli Professorship,” said Dr. Towler. “I knew Dr. Avioli well – not only as an innovative leader in bone and mineral disease research, but also as a master clinician and endocrinologist. Indeed, he served as preceptor for my first case presentation as a third-year medical student. His patient-oriented approach to endocrinology and mineral metabolism research left a lasting impression.

“The generous funds provided by the Pak Foundation and UT Southwestern enable the development of new research collaborations examining how bone-vascular interactions be-come perturbed with metabolic disorders.”

Dr. Towler, who joined the UT Southwestern faculty in 2015, is a board-certified internist and endocrinologist who earned his medical degree and doctorate in biochemistry from Washington University in St. Louis. He completed his medical residency and endocrine/metabolism fellowship at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis. At Washington University, he served as Chief of Bone and Mineral Diseases – the Division founded by Dr. Avioli – for almost a decade.

Dr. Towler is currently the principal investigator for two active Research Project Grants (R01) from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that delineate the hormonal regulation of arterial calcification (hardening of the arteries) in diabetes as relevant to musculoskeletal disease and lower limb amputation risk.  His mechanistic studies emphasize Wnt signaling, protein arginine methylation/demethylation, and transcriptional regulation as potential therapeutic interventions.

His previous research has been recognized by the Charles E. Culpeper Foundation (1996), the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research (Fuller Albright Award 2000), and the American Society for Clinical Investigation (elected in 2004). A former regular member of the NIH Skeletal Biology Development and Disease (2004-2008) and Atherosclerosis and Inflammation of the Cardiovascular System Study Sections (2010-2014), Dr. Towler now serves as a member of the External Advisory Panel to the Illuminating the Druggable Genome Consortium for the NIH Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS; 2014-present). 

Dr. Towler also holds the J.D. and Maggie E. Wilson Distinguished Chair in Biomedical Research.