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Tribute to Dr. Harold Israel

Harold L Israel, MD
Professor Emeritus of Medicine
November 16,1909 - November 22,1996

Harold L Israel, MD

Harold Louis Israel, Philadelphia's first true chest physician and an internationally renowned specialist in sarcoidosis, died on November 22, 1996 at his home. He was 87.

The cause was colon cancer, according to his family.

For six decades, from the 50's to September 1996, he served as the most prominent consultant in the Philadelphia area on enigmatic diseases of the chest. He had been on the faculty at Thomas Jefferson University since 1959. After working as a clinical professor for 13 years, he was appointed fill professor in 1972 and held the rank of Emeritus Professor of Medicine since 1980. Upon his retirement in September, 1996, he received the Dean's Medal in recognition for his superior contribution to resident education, clinical care and innovative research.

Although his first publications focused on tuberculosis, which he co-authored with such Tb experts as Heterington and Long at Phipps Institute, his knowledge of pulmonary medicine was far broader. In addition to tuberculosis, he became internationally recognized as an expert in sarcoidosis, a poorly understood disease of the lungs. Not only did he contribute to unraveling the etiology of this disease process, but he also suggested an intelligent approach to its medical management.

Dr. Israel graduated from Amherst College in 1930 and from Jefferson Medical College in 1934. From 1934 to 1936, he served as a resident at Philadelphia General Hospital where he won an award for his paper on understanding the epidemiology of Tb by studying the conversion rates and patterns of distribution among nursing students at the hospital. From 1936 to 1942, he trained and worked as an associate at the Phipps Institute which had been set up by a Philadelphia philanthropist to find a cure for tuberculosis by gathering scientists and doctors from all over the world. While working at Phipps, he obtained a master's degree in public health from the University of Pennsylvania. From 1942 to 1945, he was a general internist in the U.S. Army, stationed in England and New Mexico. He began in private practice after the war, but also was the Assistant Director of Tuberculosis Control for the City of Philadelphia from 1947 to 1951. Before joining the Jefferson faculty, he was Chief of Pulmonary Medicine at PGH from 1951 to 1959. In 1976, Dr. Israel became one of a few Americans who have been honored for his work in pulmonary medicine by being inducted into the Royal Thoracic Society of Great Britain.

In 1938, he married Dorothy Harris Israel, a teacher and principal at the School in Rose Valley, a private progressive school in suburban Philadelphia. She was tragically killed in the 1974 bombing of a TWA flight over Corfu. With his second wife, Frances Tebet Greenspan, an editor and writer, he participated in the cultural life of Philadelphia until her death this summer. He is survived by his children, Stephen Israel of Baltimore, Md., Daniel Israel of Cave Creek, Ariz., Dr. Edith Israel of Boulder, Colo., and Emily Raphael Greenfield of Brooklyn, N.Y., stepsons* Dr. Peter Greenspan of Newton, Mass., Dr. Ralph Greenspan of New York City and 10 grandchildren.

Change of Status to Emeritus Professor of Medicine

Dr. John Martin, the Interim Chairman of the Department of Medicine, has recommended that Dr. Harold Israel be awarded the distinction of "Emeritus Professor of Medicine." I am strongly in accord with this recommendation for the following reasons :

For more than two decades Dr. Israel has served on our faculty and has been an outstanding authority in the field of pulmonary diseases. He has an international reputation for his work in pulmonary sarcoidosis and is considered by many to be the outstanding expert in the field. He has also contributed to the world's literature on interstitial pulmonary disease, allergic pulmonary disease, and neoplastic pulmonary disease. In a paper published 25 years ago (Ann. Int. Med., 47:202-226, 1957), Israel pointed out on the basis of a very careful and extensive clinical study, that pulmonary thromboembolism was increasing in incidence and he described very carefully the clinical manifestations. This article proved to be the stimulus for a widespread resurgence of interest in thromboembolism that has resulted in a much more refined and effective approach to clinical management.

Having been in the field of pulmonary diseases myself, I am somewhat biased but I distinctly remember that during the decades of the 50fs and 60fs, Dr. Israel was the one person whose name would come to mind whenever I thought of Jefferson.

His contribution to medical education at Jefferson has also been impressive. He has been a popular teacher of both students and house staff. He has cheerfully assumed any and all tasks assigned to him and has performed consistently in an outstanding manner. He has brought a wide variety of very interesting pulmonary patients into the hospital and this enhanced our ability to teach at a tertiary level.

During all of this time Dr. Israel has been a volunteer physician but his contribution to our teaching program has exceeded that of many of our full-time salaried physicians.

In view of his long years of excellent and devoted service to Jefferson, of his international renown. as a pulmonary physician and the resulting addition to Jefferson's luster, and of his considerable services as a physician, I believe that Dr. Israel should have the rank of Emeritus Professor of Medicine.