Kidney specialist Adrian Katz, MD, 1932-2009

August 19, 2009

Adrian Katz, MD

An internationally recognized authority on how the kidney regulates salt and water, especially the role of sodium pumps in kidney function, and the diagnosis and treatment of kidney disease, Adrian Katz, MD, professor emeritus of medicine and former section chief of nephrology at the University of Chicago, died in his Hyde Park home from complications of heart failure on August 17. He was 77 years old.

Katz performed pioneering research on the basic biology of how the kidneys regulate sodium, potassium and water in the body, and applied those discoveries to understanding everything from how the kidney reabsorbs large amounts of sodium during pregnancy to the problems of fluid maintenance in hot, desert environments. In the late 1960s, he published a series of landmark studies on the enzyme sodium-potassium-activated adenosine triphosphatase, which triggered decades of research that led to a better understanding of sodium transport by the kidney and aberrations in this process that lead to disease.

As a clinician he focused on the understanding and treatment of kidney diseases, especially lupus nephritis; on calcium management and bone loss associated with dialyses and transplantation; and on the role of the kidneys in high blood pressure during pregnancy.

"Adrian published some of the classic studies of kidney function and membrane transport," said his colleague Marshall Lindheimer, professor emeritus of medicine and obstetrics and gynecology at the University, "but he was also renowned for his clinical skills, which engendered many loyal patients. As a physician he was compassionate, thoughtful, and a brilliant diagnostician."

"He was always our first choice for a consult or second opinion," said F. Gary Toback, MD, PhD, professor of medicine at the University. "He was thoughtful and he listened. Those same skills made him a good leader. When he came here the nephrology section had lost several key faculty, yet he quickly rebuilt the section into a strong national presence with a reputation as one of the top programs in the nation."

Adrian Izhack Katz was born August 3, 1932, in Bucharest, Romania. As a teen, his family had to hide from the anti-Jewish pogroms sweeping Eastern Europe and his father was captured and spent much of World War II in a Nazi concentration camp. In 1950, when Adrian was 18, the family emigrated to Israel.

Katz attended college at Hebrew University in Jerusalem and graduated in 1960 from Hadassah Medical School there. After completing an internship, research fellowship and residency at Tel-Aviv University's Belinson Medical Center--where he met his wife, Miriam--he came to the United States in 1965 for a research fellowship at Yale followed by a clinical fellowship at Harvard's Peter Bent Brigham Hospital. He joined the faculty at the University of Chicago as an assistant professor of medicine in 1968 and remained until retirement in 2002.

Katz was recruited by the University to establish a dialysis program, which was a necessary component of the kidney transplantation they were about to develop, one of the first such programs. At the University of Chicago, he rose steadily through the ranks, becoming an associate professor in 1971, section chief of nephrology in 1973, and professor of medicine in 1975. He spent a year as a visiting professor at the Collège de France, in Paris, in 1977-78, and a semester as a visiting professor at Yale in 1988.

A prolific author who continued to do research and publish his findings almost until he died, Katz was the author or co-author of more than 300 scholarly articles and book chapters. Working with Lindheimer and obstetrician Frederick Zuspan, he edited one textbook on Hypertension in Pregnancy, which was published in 1976. Katz and Lindheimer authored and published a second textbook on Kidney Function and Disease in Pregnancy in 1977. He also lectured around the world as invited speaker or visiting professor.

Katz received several honors, including awards from Hebrew University, Yale, and the National Institutes of Health, plus a Lifetime of Service Award from the Kidney Foundation of Illinois in 2002 and the Gold Key Award from the University Of Chicago Medical School Alumni.

He was "a quiet scholar, who enjoyed reading and classical music," said Lindheimer. "He loved all the arts," said his wife Miriam. "He also had a remarkable sense of humor. We all thought he might become a stand-up comedian when he retired. I suspect his family's troubles in Romania taught him to see the humor in life's challenges."

Katz is survived by his wife Miriam, their daughter Iris, son-in law Peter Girzone, and granddaughter Romy. Services are will be held Wednesday August 19th at 1 PM in the Chapel of Oak Wood cemetery.

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