Sheldon R. Pinnell, MD
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Sheldon R. Pinnell, MD, a longtime Duke professor and internationally eminent scientist, dermatologist, and educator, died peacefully at his home on July 4, 2013. Fireworks started as he left his home for the last time, and fireworks will sparkle every Independence Day in his memory.
Sheldon was the J. Lamar Callaway Professor of Dermatology emeritus and a transformative force in what is now Duke's Department of Dermatology. In 2013, Duke University Medical Center recognized Pinnell's distinguished career with the establishment of the Sheldon R. Pinnell Center for Investigative Dermatology.
"We owe a great debt of gratitude to Sheldon for all of his efforts to support Duke and the Dermatology faculty and staff here. He will be remembered as a tremendous leader for this organization, but even more so, a true friend and mentor to so many of us," said Nancy Andrews, MD, PhD, Dean of Duke University School of Medicine.
Pinnell received his undergraduate degree from Duke University, and his medical degree from Yale University School of Medicine. He spent two years as a medical resident at the University of Minnesota, followed by three years at the National Institutes of Dental Research, where he first began making seminal contributions to the understanding of how human connective tissue is produced and organized. In 1968, he became a resident in dermatology and research associate at the Massachusetts General Hospital of Harvard University School of Medicine. In 1971, after being named a Helen Hay Whitney Fellow and Herzog Fellow of the American Dermatological Association, he spent two years studying collagen chemistry at the Max Planck Institute in Munich, Germany.
In 1973, Pinnell returned to Duke where he remained for his entire academic career. From 1973-1980, he was named a prestigious Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator; and then the J. Lamar Callaway Professor of Dermatology and Chief of Dermatology at Duke from 1982 to 1997. A visionary leader, Dr. Pinnell developed and implemented major strategic initiatives that facilitated the growth and prominence of Duke University's Division of Dermatology and culminated in the establishment in 2009 of the internationally-recognized Department of Dermatology. During his tenure, he trained more than 100 residents, 22 research fellows, and left a legacy of 22 dermatologists, including seven current department chairs; residency program directors, and associate department and vice chairs.
Dr. Pinnell led major advances in the understanding of skin biology and the pathogenesis of skin diseases. Early in his career, he made seminal contributions to the understanding of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and the role of vitamin C in collagen biosynthesis. Dr. Pinnell and his Duke research team discovered some of the mechanisms by which sun exposure causes photoaging; and described the use of first, L-ascorbic acid (vitamin C), and then combination topical antioxidants to help protect and repair skin from oxidative stress, including sun damage. Both nationally and internationally, he was known as the "Father of Vitamin C".
His important work led to his election to many honorary societies including the American Society for Clinical Investigation, The Association of American Physicians, the American Dermatological Association and multiple listings in Who's Who. Just this year, he was made an Honorary Member of the Society of Investigative Dermatology.
Over his lifetime, he received numerous medical and scientific awards including The Best Doctors in America, The International Who's Who in Medicine, Who's Who in Science and Engineering and Who's Who in America. Dr. Pinnell has published more than 200 scientific articles in peer-reviewed journals on dermatology topics such as photoaging, collagen synthesis, UV protection, and topical vitamin C and other antioxidants. Dr. Pinnell also authored approximately 20 book chapters and holds ten patents.
Dr. Pinnell was a founding scientist of Fibrogen, SkinCeuticals, and the Skin Science Institute. He was SkinCeuticals' Chief Medical Advisor. Today, SkinCeuticals is available in 26 countries and one of the leading cosmeceuticals brands globally.
"We are honored to have had the chance to know and work with Dr. Pinnell over the years...Everything he has taught us, as well as his passion for discovery, will continue to live on daily with all of us," Marc Toulemonde, SkinCeuticals Global Manager.
"Dr. Pinnell's philosophy and dedication to advancing science in the cosmeceutical landscape is unlike anyone we have ever met and remains an inspiration for us today. It is our esteemed privilege to have had the opportunity to learn from the 'Founding Father of Topical Antioxidants' and introduce a range of products that changed the way we care for our skin globally." Brigitte Liberman, World Wide President, L'Oréal Active Cosmetic Division, including SkinCeuticals.
"Dr. Pinnell had an energy and enthusiasm for life, and knowledge of dermatology that was second to none. He will be missed by his many colleagues and by dermatologists globally." Jean Krutmann, M.D., Professor of Dermatology and Environmental Medicine at the Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf.
Dr. Pinnell's most famous ancestor was Philippe Pinel (1745 – 1826), a French psychiatrist, known for unchaining the insane. This famous French connection may help to explain his medical career choice, and his love of fine wine, beautiful art, great music, stunning architecture and spectacular gardens. How interesting that one is known as the "Father of Modern Psychiatry" and the other as the "Father of Vitamin C"; and both have been honored with places in their names.
Dr. Pinnell was accomplished in so many ways, but most particularly he would like to be remembered as a loving husband, father, grandfather, and ardent Duke Blue Devil fan. Surviving are his wife, Dr. Doren Madey Pinnell; three sons, Kevin, Alden, and Tyson; and five grandchildren.
Dr. Pinnell's family is most grateful for the support he received during his illness, including his Duke physicians, Andrew J. Muir, MD, Joseph O. Moore, MD, and Robert Williams, MD, and their staffs; his MD Anderson physician, James C. Yao, MD; his dermatology colleagues (especially all those who are participating in the upcoming events); his many friends, especially those known J. as "Team Sheldon" and all those at Duke – including the Department of Dermatology, Athletics, Gardens, Nasher Museum of Art, Duke Chapel, and Duke and Duke Medicine administrators, including President Richard Brodhead, PhD; Chancellor Victor Dzau, MD; Dean Nancy Andrews, MD, PhD; and Dermatology Chairman, Russell Hall, MD, and those known fondly as "Team Pinnell".
A small private family ceremony was held on July 8, 2013. A memorial service Chapel to celebrate Sheldon's life will be held in Duke Chapel on Tuesday, October 15 at 3 PM. Earlier that day, a research symposium, luncheon and formal dedication of the Pinnell Center for Investigative Dermatology at Duke will be held. On Monday, October 14, Sheldon's wife will host an evening in his honor at their home.
Contributions in Dr. Pinnell's honor may be made to Duke University (PO Box 90581, Durham, NC 27701). Contributions may be designated for the Sheldon R Pinnell, MD Center for Investigative Dermatology, Duke Athletics, Duke University Chapel, Nasher Museum of Art, and/or the Sarah P Duke Memorial Gardens.
The family is being assisted by Clements Funeral Service, Inc., Durham, North Carolina. Online condolences may be made at www.clementsfuneral service.com.
Published in The News & Observer on Oct. 13, 2013
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