Alvin Philip Shapiro, MD 1920–1998
Alvin Philip Shapiro, born December 27, 1920, died November 20, 1998. In the intervening 78 years, he made seminal contributions through writing (>250 publications) and teaching to our understanding of hypertension, the relationship of renal disease, and of psychological factors in the development and maintenance of elevated blood pressure.
Born in Nashville, Tennessee, Al was the son of a Russian immigrant peddler and socialist who had come to this country after the failure of the 1905 revolution in Russia. In the mid-nineteen twenties, his father moved the family, which was then a wife and two children, to New York because the elder Shapiro feared the intolerance of a place that would support the Scopes trial on the teaching of evolution.
Al attended New York City Public Schools and then entered Cornell University, receiving his AB in the spring of 1941. On graduation from Long Island College of Medicine in 1944, he interned at Long Island College Hospital and then began an internal medicine residency at the Columbia Division, Goldwater Memorial Hospital, New York. In April of 1946, he left to serve in the Army as a Captain and Medical Officer in Adek, Alaska. He remained there until late 1947. After an eight-month period as an Assistant Resident in Psychiatry at Long Island Hospital, he went to Cincinnati to work as a research fellow with Eugene B. Ferris at Cincinnati General Hospital. His object was to perform clinical, physiological, and psychiatric studies of hypertension. With the exception of a few detours, this was to characterize his life work.
While at Cincinnati General, he published research on the use of ganglionic blockers in the treatment of hypertension as well as evaluations of psychological factors in the patient response.
He remained at Cincinnati General with Dr Ferris until September 1951, when he and his new bride, Ruth Thomson, moved to Dallas. There, Al became an Assistant Professor of Medicine and Psychiatry at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. Working with Dr Arthur Grollman, he began studies of fluid compartments in human hypertension. There he also began the collaboration that would last many years, with A.I. Braude on the interrelationship between pyelonephritis and hypertension.
In 1956, he moved to Pittsburgh and joined the Departments of Medicine and Clinical Science at the University of Pittsburgh. He continued his work with A.I. Braude who had also come to Pittsburgh. There Al expanded his interest in the evaluation of new drugs. In 1959, he co-authored the text “The Evaluation of New Drugs” with S.O. Waife. In 1960, he began a program in Clinical Pharmacology, Hypertension and Psychosomatic Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh. He headed this program until 1971. He also served as the acting chief of the renal division from 1962–1965. He was rewarded with a full professorship in 1967.
His research continued over those years and focused more and more on behavioral factors affecting hypertension and antihypertensive therapy. With Robert Miller and Gene King, he continued to elucidate psychological and perceptual differences between hypertensives and normotensives, and then with Jacobs and others, analyzed the effect of stress and various other factors on 24-hour blood pressure monitoring. He also was a significant factor in encouraging various behavioral psychologists such as Steven Manuch and Karen Matthews to pursue and elucidate many studies of neurobehavioral effects of hypertension and its therapy in specific populations.
Nationally, he served as Chairman, Policy Advisory Board of the Hypertension Detection and Followup Program (HDFP) for the National Heart and Lung Institute. For that work he was recognized as Co-Recipient of the Albert Lasker Special Public Award. He served on multiple National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute task forces and as a member of several study sections. In 1989, he was elected to fellowship in the American Association for the Advancement of Science for “Pioneering Research in the Behavioral Aspects of Cardiovascular Disease”.
In 1971, he became the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs where he remained until 1975 when he returned to the Department of Medicine as Vice Chairman and then interim Chairman. In 1985, he moved across town to Shadyside Hospital to direct the Medicine Training Program. He continued in that role until 1993 when he became professor emeritus.
By calling our attention to behavioral aspects of patients with cardiovascular disease and how therapy and outcome are affected, he improved hypertension care and enriched our knowledge base. As a person, he also enriched the lives of those who had a direct contact with him. It was undoubtedly his warmth and respect that encouraged many of us to pursue ideas and even careers in the areas of hypertensive research and care. In addition to our personal loss, the field has lost one of its pillars.
We will miss him.
Al Shapiro was a dear friend, a valued colleague, and an active contributor to the hypertension community worldwide. Indeed, at the time I learned of his death I was actually reading his review of a manuscript submitted to the journal. He was always a clear and incisive thinker and I was honored to serve on his advisory committee of the HDFP. That was a wonderful and satisfying experience. How pleased we were to recently publish the review of his recent textbook in the journal.