Dr. Marshall R. Urist, a prominent orthopedic surgeon who practiced medicine, researched and taught at UCLA for nearly half a century, died Sunday due to complications related to cardiovascular disease. The Los Angeles resident was 86 years old.
"Marshall Urist was a medical giant," said Dr. Gerald S. Levey, dean of the UCLA School of Medicine and provost of Medical Sciences. "He devoted his life to orthopedics, and many of the advances in that field came as a result of his clinical and research work. We have lost a great physician and scientist."
Urist, an adjunct professor at UCLA, served as president of several major national associations and societies in his field of orthopedic surgery, and for 27 years was editor-in-chief of the prestigious journal, Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research. His academic accomplishments and research efforts, supported by numerous grants, resulted in a bibliography of more than 415 publications, along with national and international recognition and awards.
Urist's pioneering studies on bone induction and the identification of bone morphogenetic protein, or BMP, revolutionized orthopedic medicine by helping to establish the newly emerging field of orthopedic growth factor research. The practical implication of this discovery is to allow more rapid bone healing and even replacement of portions of lost bone tissue. With severe fractures and even loss of limited amounts of bone, BMP has the potential of replacing and bridging the defect.
In addition to his 46-year tenure at UCLA, Urist won numerous academic honors, including two Delta Kappa awards, the Claude Bernard Medal and a Simon Guggenheim Fellowship. He held many international orthopedic memberships and was awarded named lectureships, including the Al Shands Lecture and the Dallas Phemister Lectureship.
In his early years, he was awarded the Sir Henry Wellcome Award for his original research on military surgery, specifically his extensive work on open hip fractures and jeep injuries during wartime. In 1977 Urist was named Doctor Medicin, Honoris Causa from the University of Lund, Sweden, as was his first mentor, Dr. Franklin McLean, 20 years before.
As a clinician, scientist, surgeon, writer and editor, Urist's contributions are legendary. His 1965 Science Magazine article on autoinduction was selected by the National Institute of Health Research as a Landmark Contribution to science in 1997. As past-president of the Association of Bone and Joint Surgeons, the Society of International Research in Orthopedic Surgery and Traumatology, and The Hip Society, Urist led the field of orthopedics nationally and internationally for several decades.
Born June 11, 1914, in Chicago and reared in a small farm community near Glen, Mich., Urist received his B.S. in chemistry from the University of Michigan, earned his M.S. from the University of Chicago and obtained his medical degree from Johns Hopkins University in 1941. He completed his surgical residency at Johns Hopkins and at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Urist joined the U.S. Army Medical Corps in 1943, serving with General George Patton's armored corps, first in the California-Arizona Maneuver Area and then in 1944 in England, France and Germany with the 802nd Hospital Group. By 1945, at the age of 31, he was appointed Regional Consultant in Orthopedic Surgery Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces, and Chief of Orthopedics at the 97th General Hospital in Frankfurt, Germany. In 1946 he was assigned to the Pentagon, Headquarters of the Surgeon General, to write with co-author Mather Cleveland their book "Orthopedic Surgery in World War II, In the European Theatre of Operations."
After leaving the Army, Urist taught physiology and research at the University of Chicago before joining the UCLA School of Medicine faculty in 1954. He also worked as a research associate in vertebrate paleontology in the 1960s at the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History.
Urist's passion outside of the field of medicine involved actively running his avocado ranch near Fallbrook in San Diego County.
Urist is survived by his wife of 59 years, Alice, their three children—Nancy Miller, Dr. Marshall Urist Jr. and John Urist—and eight grandchildren.