Nelson Fausto

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Nelson FAUSTO Nelson Fausto, Professor of Pathology and Senior Advisor to the Dean of the School of Medicine and former Chairman of the Department of Pathology at the University of Washington Medical School died at home on April 2, 2012 at the age of 75 after a long struggle with multiple myeloma. He was co-editor of the universally used medical textbook Robbins and Cotran Pathologic Basis of Disease and Arias' The Liver: Biology and Pathobiology, acclaimed researcher in the field of liver growth and disease, and teacher and mentor to several generations of medical students, graduate students, postdoctoral researchers and other younger colleagues. Born on December 13, 1936 in São Paulo Brazil, he attended Colégio Mackenzie and Rio Branco College before entering (1955) and graduating (1960) from the University of São Paulo Medical School. In 1962, leaving a faculty position in Brazil, he traveled to the University of Wisconsin, in Madison, for what he had expected to be two years of postdoctoral research on liver regeneration. The brutal military coup initiated in Brazil in 1964 and lasting until 1985 changed that plan forever. With members of his own family detained or fleeing for their lives, and with his own history of political activism, Fausto chose for safety's sake to stay in the United States, and become a US citizen. His talents as a researcher, teacher and mentor led him, in 1967, to Brown University, in Providence, Rhode Island, where a new enterprise in medical education (now the Brown Alpert Medical School) was just getting started. Nelson was one of the first faculty members recruited to the Program in Medicine at Brown University. He joined the faculty as Assistant Professor of Medical Science and immediately initiated a highly successful research program studying liver regeneration. He was married to fellow researcher, Anne Fausto-Sterling, from 1966 to 1992. In 1983, he became founding chair of the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at Brown and later Brown's Asa Messer Professor. In 1992, he wed AnnDe Lancey, a clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst. His intellectual commitment was to understand illness in terms of the physiology of the healthy cell and organ. His teaching commitment was to support and encourage intellectual curiosity and creativity in his students and in medical practice. He received multiple teaching awards for his efforts, which were always shaped by a gentle kindness.His research interest was to interweave in vivo studies involving animal models with in vitro cell biological and biochemical approaches to assess growth and complex pathophysiological events in the liver. He has published over 200 widely cited research papers. His passion and what he held most dearly was his capacity to love. "All the other stuff does not matter." In 1994 the University of Washington school of Medicine lured him to become Chairman of the Department of Pathology. During his tenure (1994-2011), Fausto grew the size of the size and improved the quality of the department, achieving the prestigious position of the most highly NIH-funded Department of Pathology in the US. He was President of the American Society of Investigative Pathology (ASIP) from 2004-2005. He was founding editor of the Journal of Molecular Diagnostics. For nearly a decade (1992-2001) he served as Editor-in-Chief of ASIP's flagship journal The American Journal of Pathology. Under Fausto, The American Journal of Pathology's impact factor rose to its highest levels, and it became the leading journal in the field of pathology research. In 2010 as "an individual who represents the highest ideals in pathology and medicine," he received the Gold-Headed Cane award from ASIP, the highest honor offered by this organization. He received many other awards. In the citation for his ASIP Chugai Award for Excellence in Mentoring and Scholarship (2000), Kim Boekelheide wrote: "Nelson is the quintessential model of the caring, responsible, and intellectual academic medical school faculty member...Nelson cares deeply about his research, which, for Nelson, means caring about the people in his lab and fostering their growth and development." But his story is important beyond the world of academic medicine, because it represents an on-going tale of generations of immigration, achievement, and gentle generosity of spirit. At the age of 23, his mother, Eva Salem, a Ladino-speaking Sephardic Jew from Izmir Province, Turkey, immigrated to Brazil with family members, after enduring multiple invasions of their homeland, forced military service first under one flag, then another. Earlier (1907), a Yiddish-speaking Ashkenazi Jew from the Austro-Hungarian Empire named Simon Brettschneider Fuss, who later changed his name to Fausto to sound more "Spanish", arrived as a young boy on his own in Argentina. By 1913, he had made his way from Argentina to Brazil, where he eventually became a prosperous businessman. Nelson Fausto, in turn, left his place of birth in search of self, science, growth, and safety. As fierce as his love of his science and discovery, among the most important of Fausto's achievements to him was to expand the horizons of the new and others. In each culture in which he moved, he gave. In Rhode Island, he contributed to politics and a new medical school and department. In New Hampshire, he immersed himself in the history of his 1792 parsonage and town and put a conservation easement with Monadnock Conservancy on most of his land. In the Northwest, thinking of the difficult conditions that people endure living on reservations and feeling grateful for the way their culture enriched him, he and his wife created a project that brings middle school children from Washington tribes to visit the Department of Pathology. They have contributed to scholarships for medical students from Native American tribes. His own interests included art, especially primitive and Native American art, gardens and sculpture, voracious reading, music (classical, opera, ethnic, and old style jazz), and photographing birds. He also had a deep commitment to philanthropy, creating and contributing to several other funds. Nelson Fausto is survived by his wife, Ann De Lancey, his brothers, Boris Fausto of Brazil and Ruy Fausto of France and Brazil, his nephews, Sérgio and Carlos, and niece, Luisa, and three great-nephews, Miguel, Felipe, and Antonio. A memorial service will be held Monday, April 9th at 6:30 the Queen Anne Methodist Church, 1606 5th Ave. W, Seattle. He preferred that those who wish to make contributions do so to the University of Washington Foundation for the Nelson Fausto and Ann De Lancey Endowment for Native American Education or the Fausto/De Lancey Endowed Professorship and Chair in Pathology (UW Advancement, 4333 Brooklyn Ave. NE, Box 359505, Seattle, WA 98195-9504).
Published in The Seattle Times on Apr. 8, 2012
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