Date: October 1, 2013
An internationally acclaimed expert on the epidemiology and prevention of type 2 diabetes, Frederick Brancati’s talents sparkled not only in the laboratory but through his role as a much-beloved mentor.
On top of that, he had an irrepressible sense of humor.
“He could have been a stand-up comedian,” observed Michael Klag, dean of the Bloomberg School of Public Health, whom Brancati succeeded as chief of the Division of General Internal Medicine in 2004. “Luckily for Hopkins and the health of populations everywhere, he decided to do clinical research and become a mentor par excellence.”
Brancati died on May 14 following a three-year battle against amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). He was 53.
“Fred was a truly remarkable person,” said Lawrence Appel, director of the Welch Center for Prevention, Epidemiology, and Clinical Research, a joint program of the schools of Medicine and Public Health. “To his colleagues, he was a brilliant scientist with a dazzling sense of humor. For the 200-plus faculty and staff in the Division of General Medicine, he was an extremely supportive and effective leader. For his students and trainees, he was a superb mentor. In all roles, he was warm and compassionate. He deeply cared about people.”
Brancati’s research had a profound impact on the understanding of type 2 diabetes’ clinical epidemiology and its complications. With extraordinary creativity, he used observational and experimental methodologies to address a broad array of issues related to the origin, prevention, treatment, and consequences of this chronic disease—forever changing how clinicians and researchers view it.
An honors graduate of Harvard and Columbia University’s school of medicine, Brancati arrived at Hopkins in 1989 as a general internal medicine postdoctoral fellow. He then earned a master’s degree in clinical epidemiology from the Bloomberg School. Joining the Medicine faculty in 1992, he became a full professor in 2003 and was named director of the General Internal Medicine Division in 2005. Under his leadership, the division grew to include 80 full-time faculty, 150 part-time faculty, and 17 postdoctoral fellows. Its share of federal research grants from the NIH and other agencies grew from $12 million per year to $30 million annually.
Brancati’s wife of 33 years, Elizabeth Jaffee, co-director of the Cancer Immunology Program and the Immunology and Hematopoiesis Division, had been his high school sweetheart. She told The Sun, “I was going through Fred’s wallet and he had kept our prom tickets. He was my best friend.” NAG