Hewlett Recipient Profile
Marcus A. Krupp, MD
Clinical Professor of Medicine Emeritus
March 26, 1987
In the lobby of PAMF's Research Institute is a plaque that reads: "In appreciation of Marcus A. Krupp, MD--A founder of the Research Institute and its director from 1950 to 1986. A leader of outstanding judgment, perseverance and inimitable humor."
The modest, understated plaque is, in many ways, a mirror image of the man it honors. For Marc Krupp, an unassuming man of slight physical stature and self-deprecating humor, a man loved and respected by his colleagues, made an impact that extends far beyond the Institute. As a teacher, mentor, editor and administrator, his influence has been felt nationally and internationally. He built from scratch one of the most prominent independent research institutes in the country and founded a national organization.
"I always had a lot of fun," Dr. Krupp says of his 36 years leading the Institute (initially the Palo Alto Medical Research Foundation). "The triumphs and successes were marvelous, but the thing I enjoyed most was the people. The biggest thrill for me came vicariously, just to see them grow and prosper, and to feel that I had nurtured them. That was the most fun."
Dr. Krupp's path to the research laboratory started in Miami, Arizona, when as a young boy he decided he wanted to attend Stanford University and become a doctor--" It seemed kind of romantic." He financed his education with odd jobs that ranged from babysitting to working as a campus security guard--even to selling hot dogs at football games. When he ran out of money as a second-year medical student at Stanford, he landed a position as an assistant professor of anatomy. That same initiative would come in handy years later, when he had to steer the Research Foundation through lean years in federal funding.
His first real introduction to laboratory medicine came during World War II, when he was assigned to the clinical laboratory at Letterman Hospital in San Francisco. He served at several military hospitals, including a brief stint in the Philippines. After the war, he was named chief of clinical pathology at the VA Hospital in San Francisco for four years, before the late Russel V. Lee, MD, founder of the Palo Alto Medical Clinic, approached him to become director of research and supervisor of laboratories.
Dr. Lee envisioned a place where local physicians could conduct research, but Dr. Krupp had a different vision: "From the beginning, I felt it was important to have a full-time research staff," he says. "There had to be a thread of continuity, a core you could build on. It takes a certain mind to do decent research. There's a 'research mind,' and a 'practice mind.' Most practicing physicians don't have time to do research, nor the research competence and the discipline to stick with it and write the reports."
In recruiting principal investigators, Dr. Krupp had a certain profile in mind. "Good research is a combination of being able to build on what's been done before and being able to look ahead. It's creativity. It's insight. It's being able to recognize the significance of what's been opened up, and the nuances that need to be clarified. Some can see it; others have a more pedestrian approach."
Dr. Krupp's record of recruitment success is solid. His PAMF investigators conducted biomedical research of national and international significance in many areas, including immunology, heart muscle function, microbiology, genetics, coronary-artery disease and medical economics.
But he also had a broader vision: He saw the need for a national organization to advance the cause of independent research organizations. In 1962, he founded the Association of Independent Research Institutes (AIRI), which has grown to 90 members and gained increasing influence with Congress and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). For years, he co-edited a popular textbook, "Current Medical Diagnosis and Treatment, and Physician's Handbook," a guide used by physicians worldwide.
Dr. Krupp also made important contributions to the local community. He used the "nonprofit umbrella" of the Foundation to help other worthwhile local organizations get off the ground, including the Children's Health Council and the Mental Research Institute, both still dynamic institutions. He taught for 50 years on the faculty at Stanford Medical School.
Over the years, Dr. Krupp has witnessed many ups and downs in federal support for basic scientific research, from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). "We'd fallen on hard times about 10 years ago, but funding has improved suddenly. Almost all of it is from NIH. I think it's opened up for two reasons: first, they finally realized that funding hadn't kept pace with inflation, and second, we now have more top-notch investigators in the independent institutes and universities."
But private funding for research is also very important, Dr. Krupp says--noting that his Stanford roommate, the late David Packard, was a significant donor to the Institute. "We've gotten major contributions from grateful patients and members of our board. ...Our endowment has grown from just a few thousand dollars to more than $15 million. We use it to support new people getting started and to fill the gap between actual costs and what NIH funds."
The nature of research also has evolved. "The whole field has changed," he says. "Techniques have changed. It used to be pretty gross (in the level of detail being studied) compared to where it is now. Now they're looking right into the cell, into the nucleus of the cell. It's fantastic. These are things we never even dreamed of in the early days the interplay among genes, how genes 'talk' to each other and how cells talk to each other.
"We never simplify things. The more we learn, the more complex it gets. I always talk about how the perimeter of research is growing. The center is known now, so we're working out on the perimeter, expanding the whole field of knowledge. That's what research is all about. It's pretty exciting stuff."
Formerly an avid backpacker, Dr. Krupp now spends much of his time gardening with his wife, Donna. He still maintains an office at the Institute, attends grand rounds at Stanford, and participates in the "morning report," where second-year residents present cases of interest. "I love teaching at the bedside," he says. "I try to bring the young people down to earth."