Kurt J. Isselbacher, MD

Dr. Kurt Isselbacher has had a long and distinguished career as a physician, innovative scientist, Chief of Gastroenterology and the founding Director of the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center.

Kurt Isselbacher, MD

Kurt Isselbacher, MD

Kurt Isselbacher received his A.B. degree from Harvard College in 1946 and his M.D. degree cum laude from Harvard Medical School in 1950. He completed his residency in 1953 at the Massachusetts General Hospital and then worked for three years (1953-1956) as a Clinical Investigator at the National Institutes of Health. In 1956, at the age of 31, Dr. Isselbacher returned to Harvard as head of the Gastroenterology Unit. His research focused on the mechanisms involved in the intestinal uptake and transport of sugars, amino acids and lipids. Over the subsequent 30 years, his division became one of the leading centers for training, research and treatment of gastrointestinal diseases in the country.

In 1987, the Mass General Board of Trustees created the Mass General Cancer Center and challenged Dr. Isselbacher to be its founding director. Dr. Isselbacher’s vision, steadfast pursuit of excellence and his ability to attract the most talented and highly motivated clinicians and scientists have led to the creation of a superb enterprise focused on cancer research.

Dr. Isselbacher’s publications include close to 400 journal articles and book chapters. He has served on the editorial boards of Journal of Clinical Investigation (1962-1972) and Gastroenterology (1963-1968) and was also a consulting editor of Medicine (1962-1994). His leadership in medicine is also recognized nationally and internationally by virtue of his role as an editor of Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine. This book is viewed by many as the leading text in internal medicine. It is used world-wide and has been translated into 13 languages.

Dr. Isselbacher has been a member and officer in many professional associations, including the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), the National Research Council, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Institute of Medicine. He has served as President of American Gastroenterological Association and the Association of American Physicians. He has also served as a member of the Science Advisory Board of the Food and Drug Administration. Dr. Isselbacher had received many awards and honors including the Distinguished Achievement Award and the Friedenwald Medal of the American Gastroenterological Association, the John Phillips Memorial Award for Distinguished Achievement in Clinical Medicine from the American College of Physicians and the Bristol-Myers Squibb/Mead Johnson Award for Distinguished Achievement in Nutrition Research. In 2001 he also received the Kober Medal of the Association of American Physicians, which is the highest recognition that this Association can bestow on one of its members and also an honorary Doctor of Science degree from Northwestern University.

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