Frederick P. Zuspan, MD, 1922-2009

June 18, 2009

Frederick P. Zuspan

An internationally recognized authority in the field of maternal-fetal medicine, Frederick P. Zuspan, MD, former chair of the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology at the University of Chicago and an expert on preeclampsia, a dangerous form of pregnancy-induced hypertension that can place both mother and unborn child in serious danger, died of prostate cancer on Sunday, June 7, 2009, in Bloomington, MN.

In the 1960s, Zuspan pioneered the use intravenous magnesium sulfate to prevent convulsions in women with preeclampsia. His treatment protocol was adopted internationally and is still used to treat preeclampsia nearly 50 years later.

He was also an outspoken advocate for a woman’s right to decide the outcome of a pregnancy, arguing publicly for faster and more sensitive pregnancy tests, insurance coverage for abortions, and improved access to the procedure for all women. Much of this activity took place while he served as department chair in Chicago and before the landmark Roe-versus-Wade decision.

"Fred Zuspan was probably the most charismatic chair I was ever associated with” said former colleague Marshall Lindheimer, MD, professor emeritus of obstetrics & gynecology and of medicine at the University of Chicago. "He sat next to me in an airplane returning from a meeting in 1970 and next thing I remember was being recruited to the University of Chicago. The Department had national leaders in every area of obstetrics and gynecology and Fred’s cohesive leadership of those individualistic giants was the stuff of legend."

"He was a superb example of the power of positive thinking," Jay D. Iams, the Frederick P. Zuspan Professor and vice chairman of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Ohio State, told the Columbus Dispatch, "always reaching higher by saying 'We can do that!' when those around him were thinking 'No way.'" 

Although known for his work with many aspects of high-risk pregnancies, Zuspan found his role in the discovery of a new treatment for preeclampsia most satisfying, said his daughter Kathryn. "He was so proud that a great deal of mothers and babies are around today because of something he did," she said.

Frederick P. Zuspan was born January 20, 1922, to Irl and Kathryn Zuspan of Richwood, Ohio, where he grew up. He began college at Ohio State University intending to become an engineer, but his studies were interrupted by World War II. He joined the Naval Air Force in 1942 and after earning his "golden wings" from the Navy was recruited by the Marines in 1943 as a bomber pilot. He served in the Pacific theater and flew in missions over Midway, Guam, Iwo Jima and Okinawa, for which he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

After the war, Zuspan resumed his studies at OSU, receiving his BA in 1947 and MD in 1951. He completed his residency in obstetrics and gynecology at Ohio State and Case Western Reserve in 1956, then spent two years as department chief at McDowell Memorial Hospital in Kentucky before returning to Case Western University for a fellowship in reproductive biology. He was named chair of the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology at the Medical College of Georgia in 1960.

Zuspan came to the University of Chicago as chair of obstetrics & gynecology in 1966 and remained till he was recruited back to Ohio State University College of Medicine, his alma mater and home state, in 1975. He stepped down as department chair in 1987 and became a professor emeritus at OSU in 1991. In 1992, OSU established the Frederick P. Zuspan Chair in his honor, and a Fred Zuspan Day was declared by the governor of Ohio.

Zuspan authored or edited more than 100 scientific articles, book chapters and textbooks, and led in the establishment of Perinatal Resources, an organization committed to the continuing medical education of practicing physicians. He served as a Director of the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology and was a founder of its division of maternal-fetal medicine. He trained countless fellows, residents and medical students and served as a medical missionary in Africa and Malaysia.

He was an editor of numerous medical journals including the Journal of Reproductive Medicine and the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. In 1977 he and Lindheimer were among the founders of the International Society for the Study of Hypertension in Pregnancy. He was among its earliest presidents. Such accomplishments bropugh him many awards, including the Joseph Bolivar De Lee Humanitarian award from the Chicago Lying in Board of Directors.

Following retirement from clinical practice, Zuspan remained active as a journal editor and served as a board member of Matria Healthcare, Inc. He also continued his lifelong interests in golf, fishing, and photography.

He is survived by two siblings; his wife of 66 years, Mary Jane Cox; three children: Mark and Kathryn Zuspan and Bethany Valentine; and seven grandchildren.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Perinatal Development & Research Fund at the Ohio State University Medical Center, 660 Ackerman Road, PO Box 183112, Columbus, OH 43218-3112 or to the March of Dimes, 1275 Mamaroneck Ave., White Plains, NY 10605 Attn: DRFR. (www.marchofdimes.com)

Funeral Services will be held Saturday, June 20, 2009, at 11:00 a.m. in the Stofcheck-Ballinger Funeral Home, in Zuspan's hometown of Richwood, Ohio. Burial will follow in Claibourne Cemetery.

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