Dr Saul Schanberg: neuroscientist, physician, mentor, teacher, father, husband

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Although I saw this obituary over the weekend, I didn't get to posting it until today. I was reminded by a local friend, an outstanding young scientist in her own right, of the impact that Dr Schanberg had made on so, so many lives in science, medicine, and our larger community.

I only had the honor of meeting Dr Schanberg once, shortly after his cancer diagnosis, while we were at a Duke Cancer Patient Support Center fundraising dinner. His wife of over 50 years, Rachel, is founder and former director of the organization which they started following the loss of their own daughter.

Among the many scientists and physicians that were mentored by Dr Schanberg is my dear friend and colleagues, Dr Cindy Kuhn. I knew that Dr Kuhn had worked with Dr Schanberg extensively, having co-authored 83 publications. What I had not appreciated previously was that Cindy had also done her PhD work with Saul - so much for that rule of distancing oneself from one's mentor.

I can't do any better than the obituary that follows.

"Saul was a warm and wonderful, high-spirited, opinionated and good humored man much loved for his infectious enthusiasm for science, his love of Duke (and Duke basketball) and most importantly his commitment to his family and friends."

And I couldn't live a life any better than that.

Internationally renowned neuroscientist and physician, Dr. Saul Schanberg, 76, died peacefully at home Friday evening after a long fight with cancer.

Dr. Schanberg is globally recognized for his ground-breaking research on the importance of touch in normal growth and development, finding that specific types of touch led to better health and shorter hospital stays for premature infants. His discoveries changed the way hospitals and clinics all over the world care for premature infants. He later extended this research to other populations, including adolescents suffering from mental disorders, depressed pregnant women, and women battling breast cancer. For his work, Dr. Schanberg received numerous prestigious awards and honors, authoring more than 200 publications.

Passionate about Duke and its medical programs, Dr. Schanberg made seminal contributions to the integration of science in medical education. Dr. Schanberg was also a distinguished educator who trained many neuroscientists, graduate and medical students during his 31 year career at Duke, many of whom have become prominent in their own careers. Dr. Schanberg also taught a key part of the first-year medical pharmacology course for his entire career and directed the course for a decade. He served as associate dean for curriculum at the School of Medicine for six years and on several curriculum and admission committees that helped reshape the training of future physicians. He took great joy in mentoring and forming life-long relationships with students and colleagues alike.

Dr. Schanberg completed his bachelor's and master's degrees at Clark University and his PhD in pharmacology and medical degree at Yale University. After an internship in pediatrics at Albert Einstein School of Medicine, he worked for two years as a research associate in pharmacology and toxicology at the National Institute of Mental Health. In 1967, Dr. Schanberg joined the Duke faculty as assistant professor of clinical pharmacology and neurology, later becoming professor of pharmacology and cancer biology, the position he held until retiring in November 2008.

Dr. Schanberg was assistant director of the Behavioral Medicine Research Program for several years and held a Career Scientist Award from the National Institute of Mental Health for much of his career. He served as chair of the Department of Pharmacology from 1988 to 1991. Saul was a warm and wonderful, high-spirited, opinionated and good humored man much loved for his infectious enthusiasm for science, his love of Duke (and Duke basketball) and most importantly his ommitment to his family and friends.

He is survived by his wife of over 50 years, Rachel Schanberg (retired founder and director of the Duke Cancer Patient Support Program which was started in memory of his deceased daughter Linda Schanberg Clark); and his daughter, Dr. Laura Schanberg (Associate Professor and Co-Chief Duke Division of Pediatric Rheumatology), as well as his son-in-law, Dr. Larry Eimers; and two grandchildren, Katie Eimers and Colin Eimers. He is also survived by his sister, Betty Dyer, and her husband Ira. In addition, he will be missed by numerous nieces and nephews.

At Saul's request, donations can be made to the Duke Cancer Patient Support Program ENDOWMENT in memorium, DUMC 3139, Durham, NC 27710. The family will be receiving visitors at Howerton Bryan Funeral Home, Sunday from 3:00-5:00 p.m. Memorial service will be held Monday at 2:00 p.m. at the Judea Reform Congregation on Cornwallis Road in Durham. Howerton & Bryan Funeral Home is assisting the Schanberg family. Online condolences may be submitted at www.howertonbryan.com select obituaries.


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Thank you for posting this, Abel. Saul made such an impact on so many lives, personally and professionally. His research has impacted still more lives. His was a life well led, and he will be missed.

not to derail too much, but any chance of you persuading Professor Kuhn to write something for Isis' Letters to our Daughters project?

By DrugMonkey (not verified) on 19 May 2009 #permalink