Obituaries Section Editor: Roxanne K. Young,
Hyman J. Zimmerman, MD, died July 12, 1999, in Bethesda, Md, of cancer,
just 1 week before his 85th birthday. At the time of his death, he held the
position of visiting scientist, Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, Washington,
DC. Despite departing his last formal position in 1984, as professor of medicine
and director of gastroenterology, George Washington University School of Medicine,
Washington, DC, he remained active until his death as a distinguished teacher,
scholar, and clinical researcher, serving as a distinguished physician at
the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Washington, DC, with continuing professorial
appointments at George Washington and Georgetown University Schools of Medicine,
as well as at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences.
Dr Zimmerman completed his undergraduate studies at the University of
Rochester in 1936 and then moved to California where he obtained both an MA
degree in bacteriology and an MD degree at Stanford University. After completing
his internship in internal medicine, he entered the US Army, serving from
1943 to 1946, during the last year of which he acted as chief of medicine
at a military hospital in France. It was here that his interest in liver disease
developed, since he cared for a ward filled with young men with viral hepatitis.
This work led to the publication of his seminal article on viral hepatitis.
After returning to the United States and completing his postgraduate
training, he began his association with the Veterans Affairs hospital system,
a relationship that was to last 50 years, until his death. He served as the
first chief of medicine at the VA Medical Center in Omaha, Neb, as well as
the VA medical centers in Chicago, Boston, and Washington, DC. During this
time (7 years), he held the post of professor and chairman, department of
medicine, Chicago Medical School, and chairman, department of medicine, Mount
Sinai Hospital, Chicago. Also during this time, he began a training program
in the field of hepatology.
Not only did he come to be regarded as one of the giants of hepatology,
a discipline he helped create, but he was recognized as a superior general
physician, responsible for training and setting on course the careers of several
generations of young physicians. Although his contributions to hepatology
were vast, with more than 300 peer-reviewed articles and 63 chapters covering
virtually all aspects of the discipline, he was particularly noted for his
expertise in hepatotoxicity. He virtually single-handedly defined the characteristics
of drug-induced injury, permitting the construction of a classification of
hepatotoxicity that has stood the passage of time. In 1978, he published the
first—and most highly regarded—single-authored textbook on this
topic, Hepatotoxicity, which remained for many years
the most distinguished reference source. He completed a second edition just
as he became ill; it was published 2 months after his death.
In 1989, he moved to a full-time position in the hepatic branch of the
Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, cementing a relationship and close friendship
with its director, Dr Kamal Ishak, that had begun 20 years earlier. This helped
to reinforce the prestigious clinicopathology liver disease conferences held
at that institution, as well as at other venues. Numerous seminal articles
and chapters emerged from this close working relationship. This was one of
the happiest times of Dr Zimmerman's career.
But Dr Zimmerman was known not only for his brilliant academic career.
He was the true "beloved physician," revered by generations of students, by
other academics, and by friends and family for his uncommon humanity, kindness,
thoughtfulness, and personal commitment, charm, and warmth. He set an example
in his relationship with patients and staff that was rare and valuable for
those with whom he worked. In the truest sense of the word, he was a "gentle-man."
Dr Zimmerman is survived by a daughter, Diane; 2 sons, Philip and David;
3 grandchildren; and a sister. His wife, Katherine, predeceased him by 10
Seeff LB. Hyman J. Zimmerman, MD. JAMA. 2000;283(6):812. doi:10.1001/jama.283.6.812