Palo Alto Weekly

Community Pulse - June 8, 2012

Deaths

Louis Zamvil

Louis Zamvil, a longtime resident of Palo Alto, died at his home May 29. He was 89.

He was a pediatrician in Palo Alto for more than 50 years. He was a member of the clinical faculty at Stanford and taught doctors, medical students and residents. He also helped found two synagogues and was actively involved in the local Jewish community.

"His life was being a pediatrician. He lived and breathed doctoring," his daughter Linda Zamvil said. "He had a commitment to all people getting the best health coverage for whatever their needs. He loved taking care of people and worked into his early 80s."

He was born in Williamsburg, N.Y., to a Romanian Orthodox Jewish family. His parents operated a fruit and vegetable stand. He spent his early life in New York, where he met his future wife, Stella Savage. After high school, he attended the City College of New York.

During World War II, he was drafted and his life took an unexpected turn. "When he was drafted, the Army sent him to a place he'd never heard of — Stanford," Linda Zamvil said. "He actually wanted to be a chemical engineer but he was commanded by the Army to take a pre-med exam."

He was assigned to the medical school at the University of Oregon, where he graduated in 1949. He began his residency training at Stanford in pediatrics until the Korean War interrupted his education. He asked Stella to marry him when he was ordered to serve overseas. He spent 1951 through 1953 in Korea as a captain and military physician. There, he provided medical aid to all types of people: soldiers, prostitutes and children.

"A Korean woman gave him an incense burner as a gift for saving her child. I still have it," Linda Zamvil said.

Upon return, he completed his internship and residency at Stanford and started his pediatric practice in Palo Alto. He was clinical professor of pediatrics at Stanford and taught students and interns until his retirement in 2003. He would frequently make house calls until 10 or 11 p.m. for sick children after his regular workday.

"He believed all people should have good health care and he was very liberal in his politics. He believed that not taking care of immigrants in hospitals was outrageous," Linda Zamvil said.

He was a Stanford sports fan and followed his Cardinal basketball, baseball and football teams. He also enjoyed fishing and driving his sports cars.

He is survived by his wife of 68 years; three children, Kenneth of Penngrove, Calif., Linda of Stowe, Vt., and Scott of Palo Alto; and eight grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Avram Goldstein

Avram Goldstein, 92, a Stanford professor of pharmacology and one of the discoverers of endorphins in the late 1970s, died June 1 after a long decline.

He helped create the new Stanford Medical School in the 1950s, wrote a pharmacology textbook, founded a journal, organized California's first major methadone program, and made discoveries in his lab about how narcotic drugs work in the brain.

He was born July 3, 1919, in New York City, N.Y., to Israel and Bert Goldstein and had a younger sister, Vivian. Growing up in Manhattan during the skyscraper-building boom and the Great Depression, he attended the progressive Walden School. The son of a prominent rabbi and Zionist, he became an atheist in childhood and dedicated his life to science.

He was admitted to Harvard University at age 15 but deferred college for a year and worked on a kibbutz in Palestine. After graduating from Harvard (1940) and Harvard Medical School (1943), he served in the U.S. Army in Colorado during World War II, treating soldiers returning from Europe. His first wife, Naomi Friedman, died in a car accident in 1946. He married Dora (Dody) Benedict, who would become a distinguished pharmacologist herself, in 1948. During 63 years of marriage, they moved to Stanford, raised four children and spent sabbatical years in Edinburgh, Copenhagen and Cambridge.

As a 35-year-old assistant professor at Harvard in 1955, he accepted an offer to chair Stanford's pharmacology department and hire new faculty for a research-oriented medical school that Stanford planned to build on its sprawling California campus. He recruited other leading scientists to Stanford, notably famed biochemist Arthur Kornberg. The new medical school building materialized as promised, and its newly arrived faculty spent decades in the middle of the revolution in molecular biology that followed on the discovery of DNA.

While department chair (1955-70), he studied the effects of caffeine in human subjects, founded the journal Molecular Pharmacology (1965), wrote Biostatistics (1967) and co-authored the textbook Principles of Drug Action (1968). In 1969, wanting to do socially meaningful work, he turned to opiates such as morphine and heroin at a time when these drugs were ravaging American cities but nobody understood their effects on the brain. He developed the methodology for studying how molecules bind to opiate receptors in the brain, a key step in the search for the endorphins.

In the 1970s he worked to isolate and identify the chemical structure of an endorphin receptor and then the endorphin itself. At one point his lab spent four years turning tons of pig pituitaries into two micrograms of purified endorphin. The molecule he thus discovered was one of the major endorphins, which he named dynorphin because of its high potency. However, he lost the friendly competition to discover the first endorphins.

Along with his lab research, he worked directly with heroin addicts in San Jose, where he organized California's first major methadone clinic in the early 1970s. Over the years, he advised policymakers on drug policies, generally advocating a public-health, harm-reduction approach. He helped develop urine tests that identified returning Vietnam veterans addicted to heroin so they could receive treatment before being discharged.

He won the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Life Science (1980) and major awards in pharmacology. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences and its Institute of Medicine. He published more than 360 research articles. The Avram Goldstein Professorship in the School of Medicine at Stanford is named for him.

He is survived by his children, Margaret Wallace of Longmont, Colo., Daniel Goldstein of Port Townsend, Wash., Joshua Goldstein of Amherst, Mass., and Michael Goldstein of San Francisco; and five grandchildren. He was pre-deceased by his sister, Vivian Olum, in 1986 and his wife, Dora B. Goldstein, last October.

— Junesung Lee

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