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Shaul G. Massry, MD

April 11, 2023

Shaul G. Massry, a pioneer in renal medicine and Professor Emeritus of Medicine and Physiology & Biophysics at the Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, died on April 11, 2023 in Beverly Hills surrounded by his family. He was 92.

Shaul was born in Iraq in 1930 to Gourgi and Aliza. Having lost his father at the age of four, he and his two siblings, Simcha and David, were raised by their mother, a formidable women whose tenacity and resilience were passed down to her son. After the creation of the State of Israel, life became more difficult for Iraqi Jews and Shaul fled from Iraq to Israel in 1950 where Jews could attain citizenship and start a new life. His entire family followed in 1951.

Shaul completed his medical education at Hadassah Medical School in Jerusalem followed by his Internship in Beilinson Medical Center. Thereafter, in lieu of military service, he contracted to provided medical care for six years in underserved areas, initially in Sodom by the Dead Sea and later the Negev desert. He cared for patients while simultaneously doing research on the effects of heat on human physiology. It was this early work that would launch his career as one of the world's preeminent nephrologists. And it was in the Negev where he met his future wife Meira.

After they married, and with their two children Efrat and Guy in tow, Shaul and Meira headed to America where Shaul was invited for a two-year research fellowship. In his first year he learned the art of clinical nephrology under Dr. George Shriner at Georgetown University. In his second year he travelled across the country to work with Dr. Charles Kleeman at UCLA. Under this mentorship, Shaul truly learned how to be an investigator. He went on to receive the Investigatorship of the American Heart Association, a prestigious honor that would keep him and his family in Los Angeles for an additional five years, and ultimately a lifetime, during which he and Meira would have two more children, Yael and Dina, and seven grandchildren.

Shaul had a storied career where he taught, mentored and carried out research for over 60 years. He started his career in Los Angeles at UCLA, then took a position at Cedars Sinai Medical Center before serving as the Chief of Nephrology at the University of Southern California from 1974 to 2000. Over the entirety of his career he received honorary doctorates from fourteen universities across Europe, was an honorary member of many international professional societies, and was the recipient of numerous awards from universities and societies throughout the world - truly too many to mention. He wrote and lectured prolifically to document his research and expand scientific knowledge. Indeed, his contributions to the understanding of medicine and renal disease were as ground-breaking as they were prodigious. Additionally, he was a passionate advocate for organ transplantation as an alternative to dialysis. He reached out to Jewish, Islamic and Catholic religious leaders, including the Pope, and successfully obtained their support. Beyond his own personal achievements, he trained and mentored hundreds of young physicians and scientists over his long career; thus his impact on the field of medicine has and will continue to grow beyond his lifetime.

Perhaps the professional achievement that was most dear to him, was the The Meira and Shaul G. Massry Foundation, which he established in 1996, a non-profit organization that promotes education and research in nephrology, physiology and related fields. The Foundation established the Massry Prize, which includes both an honorarium and lectureship, and recognizes outstanding contributions to the biomedical sciences and the advancement of health. He was so proud that 22 of its recipients went on to receive the Nobel Prize.

Shaul believed he was extraordinarily fortunate that he found such joy in his life's work. He would often refer to it as a hobby, almost laughing that he was paid to do what he would have gladly done for free. His mother taught him that if you worked hard, you would go places. But he was aware that he could not have done it alone. He had the support of an extraordinary women who raised their four children of whom he was very proud. After his retirement from the University, while he was still active in scientific community, he did have more time to be able to spend with his seven grandchildren as well. Watching them grow up brought him so much happiness, and in his last years he was grateful to see them finding their own success.

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