Remembering Dr. Barry Massie

January 25, 2021 | By Department of Medicine

Dr. Barry MassieDr. Barry Massie, Emeritus Professor of Medicine, former chief of the San Francisco VA’s cardiology section, and an internationally recognized expert in heart failure, died on January 8th at a memory care facility in Belmont, CA. His death, at age 76, was due to Covid-19; it came after a long battle with dementia.

Dr. Massie completed his undergraduate studies at Harvard College and received his medical degree from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. Following his internal medicine residency at Bellevue Hospital/NYU (where he served as Chief Resident), he completed a cardiology fellowship and a Cardiovascular Research Institute research fellowship at UCSF. He then joined the UCSF faculty, based at the San Francisco VA, in 1977 and was promoted to Professor of Medicine in 1989. After leading the SFVA Cardiac Care Unit and the Heart Failure Program, he became chief of cardiology at the SFVA, serving for over a decade until his retirement in 2013.

Throughout his distinguished career, Dr. Massie investigated imaging modalities for the diagnosis and characterization of heart failure and myocardial ischemia, the role of arrhythmias and anticoagulation in heart failure, and novel pharmacologic approaches to the treatment of hypertension and heart failure. He performed one of the first studies examining the role of hydralazine and nitrates in refractory heart failure and another that demonstrated the benefits of an ACE-inhibitor (captopril) on cardiac ejection fraction and ventricular pressures. He also helped elucidate differences in the therapeutic response for heart failure with reduced vs. preserved ejection fraction – the latter entity was relatively unknown at the time.

In addition to his own research, Dr. Massie played a leadership role in many of the clinical trials that led to contemporary approaches to the treatment of heart failure. This included 5 NIH-sponsored trials and 6 VA cooperative studies, the results of which were published in the New England Journal of Medicine, JAMA, Circulation, and Annals of Internal Medicine. He wrote over 300 scholarly articles and 50 book chapters and was an author on numerous guidelines. 

Dr. Massie was a founding member and president of the Heart Failure Society of America, Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Cardiac Failure, and served on the editorial boards of many other cardiology journals. In 2013 he received the Veterans Administration’s Barnwell Award for lifetime achievement in clinical research. Throughout his career he mentored scores of cardiology fellows and faculty members, and served as consultant to the FDA.

From a young age, Dr. Massie was interested in travel and adventure. With his wife of 40+ years, Ellen, he traveled to dozens of countries, visited Machu Picchu, climbed to the top of Mt. Rainier, and, at age 64, scaled the highest mountains in Bhutan. He was a devoted poker player and a lifelong St. Louis Cardinals fan.

Dr. Massie was a pioneering figure in the heart failure field who leaves a lasting mark on the San Francisco VA and UCSF, and scores of colleagues and trainees. Many of his mentees continue to burnish his legacy as clinical and research leaders in their own right. He is missed deeply.

A memorial service will be held at a later date. For further details, please contact his daughter Rebecca at [email protected]. Donations in Dr. Massie’s honor may be made to Physicians for a National Health Plan or Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières.

Kenneth McQuaid, MD
Professor of Medicine and Vice Chair, Department of Medicine
Chief of the Medical Service, San Francisco VA Medical Center

Jorge R. Kizer, MD
Professor of Medicine
Chief of Cardiology, San Francisco VA Medical Center

Carl Grunfeld, MD, PhD
Professor of Medicine and Associate Chief of Staff for Research and Development,
San Francisco VA Medical Center

John R. Teerlink, MD
Director of Heart Failure and the Echocardiography Laboratory, San Francisco VA Medical Center

Robert M. Wachter, MD
Professor and Chair, Department of Medicine