Sheldon Greisman

Age 80 The University of Maryland School of Medicine professor was known as 'the father of endotoxin research.'

Dr. Greisman "shone as a medical investigator, teacher and role model," said a colleague.

July 26, 2008|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,Sun Reporter

Dr. Sheldon Edward Greisman, a retired University of Maryland professor of medicine and physiology whose research focused on deadly sepsis infections, died of pneumonia July 19 at his Elkridge home. He was 80.

A teacher at the University of Maryland School of Medicine for more than three decades, he was called "the father of endotoxin research" by fellow scientists.

"Dr. Greisman was a shining star in the department of medicine at the University of Maryland," said Dr. Philip A. Mackowiak, a former student who is a University of Maryland department of medicine vice chairman and medical services chief at the downtown Veterans Administration Hospital. "He shone as a medical investigator, teacher and role model."

Born in the Bronx, N.Y., he was a Bronx High School of Science graduate and attended New York University. He earned a degree at the New York University College of Medicine. Family members said he graduated third in his class - at age 21.

He volunteered for Army service while serving as chief resident at New York's Bellevue Hospital. Dr. Greisman was assigned to the 48th MASH unit in Korea during the Korean War. He investigated Korean epidemic hemorrhagic fever in combat troops. He also served as a MASH unit psychiatrist.

While in service, he met Dr. Theodore E. Woodward, a University of Maryland infectious disease expert who would become the school's department of medicine chairman.

Dr. Woodward recruited Dr. Greisman to join him as instructor of medicine in 1954. Family members said they became longtime colleagues.

Dr. Greisman researched infectious diseases with particular emphasis on bacterial endotoxins and their role in sepsis, a medically overwhelming infection that causes the body to shut down.

"He was regarded by many as the father of endotoxin research," Dr. Mackowiak said. "He was the author of 32 scientific papers, and every one became a classic in the field."

He taught and enjoyed working with medical students in his laboratory over the years, stressing that this was one of the most gratifying and stimulating privileges, where lifetime friendships were forged.

"Shelley was the most brilliant and the most humble person I've ever known," said a colleague, Dr. Celeste Woodward Applefeld, a retired Baltimore pediatrician. "He also had a spectacular sense of humor."

Appointed professor of medicine in 1973 and professor of physiology in 1976, he retired at age 56 in 1985 for medical reasons.

Dr. Greisman received the University of Maryland School of Medicine's Golden Apple Teaching Award in 1983. In 1990, the Sheldon E. Greisman Prize in Medical Physiology was established as an annual award to honor the graduate with the most distinguished performance in physiology.

Dr. Greisman enjoyed playing hits of the 1930s and 1940s on a Martin acoustic guitar his parents gave him when he was 13. He also played light classics on the violin. He was an amateur magician and entertained his grandchildren.

He also spent much time on his Elkridge farm, which is surrounded by Patapsco State Park. He worked around his property's Victorian home and 10 outbuildings. He raised horses, goats, chickens and sheep, and occasionally was called upon to assist at the delivery of a lamb.

He later enlarged his land holdings so that all his five children and grandchildren could live on the family compound.

On Dec. 7, 2007, Dr. Greisman was honored by his colleagues at a daylong meeting, "Building a Foundation for Modern Sepsis Research: A Tribute to the Work of Dr. Sheldon E. Greisman," at the University of Maryland.

Private services were held Wednesday.

Survivors include his wife of more than 50 years, the former Janet Ruth Matthias; two sons, Gregory Greisman and Timothy Greisman, and three daughters, Kathy Greisman, Valerie Stebbins and Dr. Lisa Greisman, all of Elkridge; a sister, Nadine Malton of Morristown, N.J.; and 12 grandchildren.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

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