Edward Rubenstein (left), with Ronald Levy and Bob Harrington at the 2016 Rubenstein Lecture

Remembering Edward Rubenstein

The Department of Medicine is celebrating the life of internist, educator, and investigator Edward Rubenstein, MD, professor emeritus of primary care and population health. A leading researcher on campus, Rubenstein made a lasting impact on the medical community through his work on treatments for sickle cell anemia, development of a diagnostic imaging system using synchrotron radiation, exploration of the role of cerebrospinal fluid in age-related mental disorders and studies on a possible link between dietary nonprotein amino acids and disease.

A native of Cincinnati, OH, Rubenstein attributed his interest in medicine to his pediatrician who administered care when he contracted polio at a young age. He attended the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine and joined the Stanford community in 1955 as a clinical instructor after serving in the Korean War. During his tenure, he also acted as a clinical professor and associate dean for postgraduate medical education.

Rubenstein retired in 1993 but still remained very involved in research on campus. He won several awards while at Stanford, including the Albion Hewlett Award and the Kaiser Award for Innovation and Outstanding Contributions to Medical Education, held membership with the National Academy of Medicine and was a founding editor of Scientific American Medicine. Dean Lloyd Minor, MD, says based on his “contributions in research and in training scores of future physicians,” Rubenstein will remain “at the heart of Stanford Medicine.”

View the full obituary here.

In their own words: Department of Medicine faculty reflect on Edward Rubenstein’s life and work

Abraham Verghese, Linda R. Meier and Joan F. Lane Provostial Professor:

"I had the pleasure of getting to know him during the Rubenstein lectureships and recognize the breadth  of his interests, from small molecules to clinical observations. He always got to pick the speakers for the lectureship and his choices tended to be people doing cutting edge science, including two Nobel prize winners in successive years. I think he had no difficulty following the advanced  basic concepts in those presentations, while  I confess at times it went way over my head. But sitting next to him what was clear was his passion for medicine and the fact that he saw no need to compartmentalize his interest. He was interested in the individual, their place in society, disease, epidemiology, the molecular structure of the cell—it was all medicine. Truly an inspiring figure and I only wish I had been one of his trainees."

Saul A. Rosenberg, Maureen Lyles D’Ambrogio Professor Emeritus:

“Edward Rubenstein was truly a renaissance man. He was an outstanding clinician and teacher, and important to our teaching program. In the 1960’s he served as Chief of Medicine at the San Mateo County Hospital and was revered by our house staff and students who rotated there. He also worked with SLAC on small particles and several important amino acids, and he often lectured to us about the universe and relativity.”

Kelley Skeff, George Deforest Barnett Professor in internal medicine:

"When I came to Stanford in 1975, Ed Rubenstein was known as someone who was a very respected member of the department.  He was a role model as a clinician and a clinician-scientist.  It was clear that he had a love of medicine and science at the most basic level.  He also had the intellect to match the love. He worked with colleagues at SLAC, focusing on early concepts of imaging and the physics behind it. His interest in and his ability to understand physics and mathematics distinguished him from most clinicians. He embodied the characteristics of a unique physician: capable of teaching and understanding the practice of medicine, and also revering and understanding the most basic scientific concepts, and his Rubenstein Lecture Series reflects that. It seemed to be his goal to keep the essence of basic science in the forefront of our thoughts.

Along with this intellect and caring for humanity, he was gracious. I will always remember one of his Medicine Grand Rounds lectures, where he gave career advice. As he described for us the milestones that were being achieved at SLAC, he put up a single slide to advise those of us who were younger in our careers. The slide simply said, “There is a secret to success: persistence.” I made a copy of that advice, and kept it in front of me as I moved on in my own career. When I told him later that his advice was important to me, he was so gracious and acted surprised that he had said anything useful. Ed Rubenstein was an intellectual giant. Stanford Medicine and science in general have lost a truly great person."

Sharon Hunt, Professor Emeritus of cardiovascular medicine:

“He was one of the brightest and most well-rounded scholars I’ve ever known. He will be missed.”