Dr. Joseph S. Handler

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9 entries
  • "With love from SC"
    - Carol Bishop
  • "We are saddened to hear of Joe's passing. Though we have..."
    - Joanne & Ron Goldfarb
  • "Our condolences to Joan and family. We greatly treasured..."
    - John Dirks
  • "He was a great human being...I'll miss you dear J."
    - Marlene De Abreu
  • "I will always be greatful to Joe, who provided encouragment..."
    - Vardaman Buckalew
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HANDLER Dr. Joseph S. Handler 1929 - 2015 Dr. Joseph S. Handler, an award-winning scientist whose pioneering research continues to be taught and applied decades later, died on December 20, 2015 in Miami Beach, Florida, where he had a winter home. He was 86 and had been battling cancer in recent years. Joe made major contributions to science by uncovering mechanisms that serve as foundations for current kidney research and are still taught to physicians and scientists. He also created a model of epithelial cell physiology that has led to discoveries around the world and remains in use 30 years after initially reported. Awards he received included the Homer W. Smith Award from American Society of Nephrology in 1987 and the Robert W. Berliner Award for Excellence from the American Physiological Society in 2001. Joe was a long-time member of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute''s Laboratory of Kidney and Electrolyte Metabolism at the National Institute of Health, where he first arrived as a PHS fellow in 1957 after serving in the U.S. Army. He made major contributions to our understanding of kidney function during his tenure at what is now the NHLBI from 1960 to 1988. Joe then moved to the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, where he was Director of Nephrology in the Department of Medicine from 1988 to 2003. He ultimately established at Johns Hopkins the Joseph S. and Esther Handler Endowed Professorship in Laboratory Research in Nephrology for the advancement of bench research in renal medicine. Joe contributed seminal advances in renal physiology through uncovering aspects of the urinary concentrating mechanism, which allows us to maintain near-constant excretion of waste solutes in the urine when our water intake and urinary volume vary. He was the first to demonstrate that cyclic AMP mediates the effect of vasopressin, key to regulating water balance in the body. Joe also developed a technique for culturing epithelial cells using filter bottom cups, which still remains a standard method. This was an important breakthrough because epithelial cells have special functions - lining the kidney tubules, trachea, ureter, esophagus, and rectum - that make them invaluable to understanding organ function. Joe himself, along with his colleagues, discovered many aspects of epithelial transport using this method, including functional characteristics of the tight junctions that join the cells, the effects of adrenal steroids, and membrane changes that occur in response to vasopressin. Joseph S. Handler was born in the Bronx on April 19, 1929, to Nettye (Sohmer) and Louis Handler, and was raised in Washington Heights in New York City. He received both his undergraduate and medical degrees from the University of Pennsylvania. He married Esther Minkoff in 1955 and they were together for 47 years until her death in 2001. He met his second wife, Joan Glade de Pontet, in 2002 and they married in 2008. Through Joan, he had four step-children - Thomas Glade, Julia Glade Bender (Jonathan Bender), Stephanie Brun de Pontet and Philippe de Pontet (Analya Cespedes) - and eight grandchildren. An avid tennis player, Joe also had a wonderful eye for art. He collected Asian art and the work of Georges Roualt. At age 74, he took up the cello having never played an instrument. He mastered sight reading and music theory and practiced almost daily for five years for the joy and challenge of it. Bach was his soul music. Colleagues at NIH noted how Joe continued to mentor scientists through the years, and that beyond being a great scientist, he was a great friend and humanitarian. A celebration of Joe''s life will be held at 10:30 a.m. on January 17, 2016, at the Cosmos Club, 2121 Massachusetts Ave. N.W., Washington, DC 20008. A brunch will follow. Donations can be made to the Joseph S. Handler Fund for Laboratory Research in Nephrology at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.A celebration of Joe''s life will be held at 10:30 a.m. on January 17, 2016, at the Cosmos Club, 2121 Massachusetts Ave. N.W., Washington, DC 20008. A brunch will follow. Donations can be made to the Joseph S. Handler Fund for Laboratory Research in Nephrology at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

Published in The Washington Post on Dec. 27, 2015
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