Dr Ramzi S. Cotran (1932–2000), who is widely acknowledged as one of the foremost and most distinguished academic pathologists in the United States, died October 23, 2000, at his home in Brookline, Massachusetts at the age of 67.
His pioneering work with endothelial cells and vascular smooth muscle cells in tissue culture, performed with Drs Michael Gimbrone and R. Judah Folkman, made him one of the founders of the modern field of vascular biology. He exerted an enormous impact on both vascular biology and nephrology research while building the Department of Pathology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital into an international leader in academic pathology during his 27 years at its helm.
The fact that more than 500 people came to Brigham and Women’s Hospital from as far away as Amsterdam to salute Dr Cotran last September when the Cotran Professorship in Pathology at Harvard Medical School was announced speaks volumes to the respect and admiration he earned over a lifetime.
At the time of his death, Dr Cotran was chairman of the pathology departments at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Children’s Hospital in Boston and was the Frank B. Mallory Professor of Pathology at Harvard Medical School. He was named pathologist-in-chief at Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in 1974 and, during nearly 3 decades, he transformed his department from a small clinical service into a distinguished academic department that is widely considered one of the nation’s best training programs for pathology.
Born in Haifa, Palestine, Dr Cotran received his medical degree from the American University of Beirut in 1956. He came to the United States for postgraduate training in pathology and nephrology at Boston City Hospital’s Mallory Institute of Pathology in Boston and at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York.
Many will remember him through his publications. In 1979, he became the senior author of Robbins Pathologic Basis of Disease, one of the most widely read textbooks in medicine.
His contributions to the medical and scientific discipline of pathology were immense. He served as president of the American Association of Pathologists, president of the United States and Canadian Academy of Pathology, a trustee of the American Board of Pathology, and a member of the Residency Review Committee for Pathology.
One of Dr Cotran’s most important contributions to medicine was his teaching. He mentored and trained many of the most talented pathologists today. More than a dozen departmental chairs trained with him and learned both their technical and leadership skills from his teaching and example. His forward thinking made him one of the giants in the field and influenced all who were fortunate enough to know him. Harvard also recently gave him a Lifetime Achievement Award in Mentoring and the Dean’s Award for Support and Advancement of Women Faculty in recognition of his many contributions.
He also recently received the John P. Peters Award from the American Society of Nephrology for his research into the mechanisms of immune, infectious, and vascular renal injury; his training program; and his long-standing leadership role in academic renal pathology. The author of more than 180 research papers, he was an elected member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Dr Cotran is survived by his wife, Kerstin; son, Paul Cotran, MD; daughter Leila Cotran Jacobs and her spouse Marc; daughter Nina Cotran, MD, and her spouse David Lenrow; daughter Suzanne Williamson and her spouse Donald; and 11 grandchildren.
Simply stated, Dr Cotran was a pathologist’s pathologist, a superb mentor, and a teacher for all of medicine, and he will be greatly missed.
- Copyright © 2001 by American Heart Association