Gerald Medoff, admired physician, teacher, dies at 82

Dr. Gerald Medoff, former director of the Division of Infectious Diseases and Vice Chair of Medicine at Washington University, died Jan. 14.

BY ROBERT A. COHN, Editor-in-Chief Emeritus 

Gerald Medoff, former director of the Division of Infectious Diseases and Vice Chair of Medicine at Washington University, died peacefully in hospice care at Evelyn’s House, on Monday, Jan. 14, after a long bout with cancer. He was 82. Dr. Medoff was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. on Nov. 9, 1936, son of Nathan and Ann Weinstein Medoff. He was married to Judith Zuckerman Medoff. They had two sons. 

Dr. Medoff graduated from Columbia College in New York and graduated in 1962 from the Washington University School of Medicine. He did his internship and residency at New England Medical Center in Boston, followed by research and clinical fellowships in infectious diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. He joined the medicine and pediatrics faculty at Harvard Medical School and served as attending physician at MGH and Boston Children’s Hospital before being recruited back to Washington University School of Medicine in 1970 as an assistant professor of Medicine and Molecular Microbology. He became chief of the Infectious Diseases Division in 1972. 

He served as director of the Division of Infectious Diseases for 20 years. In 1989, he made what was then regarded as an astonishing decision to give up his bench research, which at the time was fully funded by the NIH to refocus his activities to build up the clinical programs in the division. Dr. Medoff recognized the burgeoning importance of infectious disease as a clinical problem with increasingly complex patients requiring attention to better serve patients and referring physicians. He also saw the need to foster the careers of clinical investigators and clinical research training at the medical center. 

Dr. Medoff left the university to serve as clinical director of the National Institute on Aging of the NIH in 2004, but returned to the school of medicine in 2005 to teach and care for patients. He was the first infectious disease physician in the school of medicine and cared for patients with acute and complex infectious diseases at Barnes Hospital, Jewish Hospital and St. Louis Children’s Hospital for many years. 

In the early 1989s, at the height of the AIDS epidemic, Dr. Medoff founded the first AIDS Clinical Trials Unit at Washington University. He was a beloved mentor for generations of medical and graduate students, postdoctoral  students and faculty.

“Dr. Medoff made significant contributions to the Infectious Diseases Division, Department of Medicine and Washington University School of Medicine…He was an excellent role model and mentor,” said Dr. Victoria J. Fraser, the Adolphus Busch Professor of Medicine and head of the Department of Medicine.

Dr. Medoff was a member of several professional societies, including the American Society for Clinical Investigation and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He also received many awards and honors, including the Distinguished Educator Award and the Second Century Award from the School of Medicine.

Dr. Medoff is survived by his wife, Dr. Judith Zuckerman Medoff; their two sons, Dr. Benjamin (Alisia) Medoff, of Dover, Mass., and Nathaniel (Sherri) Medoff, of Atlanta, as well as four grandchildren and a brother, Steven Medoff.

Funeral services were held Jan. 16 at Berger Memorial Chapel, where Rabbi Ben Greenfield of Bais Abraham Congregation officiated. Burial was at the Beth Hamedrosh Cemetery on Ladue Road.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Infectious Diseases Division to support the Gerald Medoff Lectureship at Washington University  (c/o Rachel Hartmann, Campus Box 1247, 7425 Forsyth Blvd., St. Louis, 63105, or the St. Louis Parkinson’s Association, or Evelyn’s House.