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Maurice Sokolow, M.D.
1911 - 2002
Maurice Sokolow, MD, a cardiologist and an international expert in hypertension, died Thursday of cancer at UCSF Medical Center in San Francisco. He was 91 years old.
Sokolow was a pioneer in the field of hypertension, including the effects of stress on blood pressure, said Lee Goldman, MD, MPH, UCSF chair of the department of medicine and professor of medicine, and he was a beloved member of the UCSF community since 1936.
Sokolow earned a reputation as a highly creative researcher and teacher in the field of cardiology, and became a founding member of the UCSF Cardiovascular Research Institute, merging clinical cardiology with academic and research work during the 1950s.
Sokolow was born in New York. His family moved to California, but at age six, his mother died. His father was unable to care for Sokolow and his sister, so they were placed in an orphanage for seven years. Sokolow's sister, Josephine Osborne, helped Sokolow go to the University of California, Los Angeles, and later to Berkeley for an undergraduate degree. The path to medical school at UCSF was more difficult: Sokolow earned his way by living at nearby Laguna Honda Hospital and working at night and was awarded the Gold Headed Cane, the honor bestowed upon the top graduating medical student. Sokolow received an MD from UCSF in 1936.
During World War II, Sokolow was stationed on a hospital ship in Fiji. While there, he learned about tropical disease in order to treat his patients. According to his family, he became the hospital photographer with no previous expertise in the area. He volunteered to take photos, and wired his wife Ethel to send him a camera with complete instructions so that he could learn on the job. He later passed his love of photography on to all of his children.
During the 1950s, Sokolow was head of the hypertension section at San Francisco General Hospital Medical Center. He designed and constructed an ambulatory device to show that blood pressure varied throughout the day. His study also confirmed that blood pressures taken in the clinic setting tended to be higher than ambulatory pressures for the majority of patients. This portable blood pressure recorder provided a major role in hypertension studies throughout the next decades, including the discovery of "white coat" hypertension, a persistently elevated clinical blood pressure when the patient was being seen by a doctor, and a normal pressure at other times.
Soke was not only a teacher, but he loved the students and brought them into both the clinical and academic worlds. A big man physically, Sokolow was also big intellectually, and loved words and quoting epic authors.
Sokolow was also known for his legendary teaching and active leadership in the American Heart Association and for writing more than 160 medical publications, including
the textbook Clinical Cardiology which was translated into seven languages. The book was co-authored with Melvin D. Cheitlin, MD, and Malcolm McIlroy, MD. When the book was first published, Sokolow inscribed "Now we made it!" to his sister to share the joy of this major accomplishment with her.
Sokolow affected the lives of numerous scholars through mentorship, training and making them a part of his life.