Remembering Abraham M. Rudolph, MD

April 21, 2023 | By UCSF School of Medicine

Dr. Abe RudolphIt is with profound sadness that we share the news that Abraham (Abe) Rudolph, MD, passed away on April 9, 2023 at the age of 99. Dr. Rudolph was a Professor Emeritus of Pediatrics and a Senior Staff Member of the Cardiovascular Research Institute at UCSF. He was Chief of the Division of Pediatric Cardiology from 1966 to 1994 and Chairman of the Department of Pediatrics from 1986 to 1991.
Dr. Rudolph pioneered the study of the intact, non-anesthetized fetal sheep using radionuclide-labeled microspheres, and is responsible for much of our knowledge of fetal physiology and the transition at birth. He performed many important clinical studies in infants and children with a wide variety of congenital heart lesions, many of which are now classics in the field, and he began the field of cardiac catheterization of the newborn.

This work formed the basis of his remarkable book Congenital Diseases of the Heart: Clinical-Physiologic Considerations, first published in 1974 and revised in 2001. The book has been used by two generations of pediatric cardiology trainees as a basis of their understanding of developmental cardiovascular physiology and the pathophysiologic processes associated with congenital heart defects.

In addition to his studies of the heart and systemic circulation, Dr. Rudolph, together with Dr. Michael Heymann and a variety of fellows, began to study the perinatal pulmonary vascular bed and the ductus arteriosus. Those studies transformed our understanding of the pulmonary circulation and of the controlling factors of the ductus arteriosus, leading to the discovery of important treatments in these areas. They performed many of the initial therapeutic trials in newborns with pulmonary hypertension and developed therapies that have dramatically reduced the morbidity and mortality of prematurity and congenital heart disease.

Throughout Dr. Rudolph’s remarkable research and clinical career, arguably unparalleled in the field of Pediatric Cardiology, his commitment to teaching and mentoring has been significant. In recognition of this commitment, he received the Lifetime Achievement in Teaching Award of the American Academy of Pediatrics in 1992. In his capacity as Chief of Pediatric Cardiology and head of the fellowship training program at UCSF, he was responsible for the training of more than 150 fellows in clinical Pediatric Cardiology. In addition, he mentored a large number of pre-doctoral, doctoral, and post-doctoral scientists in research in perinatal physiology and pharmacology, many of whom received funding from an NIH training grant that he began in New York in the early 1960’s, and that has been continuously funded at UCSF since that time. These individuals represent many disciplines, including pediatric cardiology, neonatology, endocrinology, obstetrics, anesthesiology, physiology, and pharmacology.

Dr. Rudolph was elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Science, was a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and among many honors and awards, received the Founders Award of the Cardiology section of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Howland Award for Pediatrics from the American Pediatric Society, and the Research Achievement Award from the American Heart Association.

He is remembered as a great thinker, researcher, clinician, mentor, and person. The UCSF School of Medicine would like to extend our condolences to Dr. Rudolph’s family, friends, and close colleagues. He will be sorely missed by the entire pediatric cardiology community and beyond.