Lives of the fellows

Robert Volpé

b.6 March 1926 d.19 April 2005
OC (2003) MD Toronto(1950) FRCPC(1956) FACP(1965) Hon FRCP Edin(1992) Hon FRCP(1995) MACP(1998)

Robert Volpé was a former director of the division of endocrinology and metabolism at the University of Toronto, Canada. During his professional career he made many important academic and administrative contributions in endocrinology and thyroid medicine, at national and international levels. He became a leading authority on the pathogenesis of Graves' disease and Hashimoto's thyroiditis, and published numerous reviews on the immune mechanisms causing thyroid diseases and other endocrine organautoimmune syndromes.

He was born in Toronto, and, after military service in the Royal Canadian Navy during the Second World War, enrolled in the University of Toronto Medical School. He graduated in 1950. While a research fellow from 1955to 1957, he became interested in the subspecialty of endocrinology and the thyroid gland. During his career he published over 300 journals, book chapters, reviews and editorial comments.

He was appointed as a professor at the University of Toronto in 1972 and served as the physician-in-chief of the department of medicine. He was later chairman of the medical advisory council of the Wellesley Hospital in Toronto. Subsequently, he became the director of the division of endocrinology and metabolism at the University of Toronto from 1987to 1993, before being made professor emeritus by the governing council of theUniversity of Toronto.

Volpé was frequently invited to many medical centres and meetings around the world as a visiting professor. He encouraged the training of many research fellows, both from Toronto and abroad. Almost all became part of the Volpé ‘family' and continued their personal contact for many years there after. Despite his numerous administrative, academic and professional commitments, he remained an avid sailor and tennis player. He was also an enthusiastic skier who was well known to his colleagues at the Alpine Ski Club.

Volpé had a wonderful sense of humour and a talent for story telling which always made his lectures and social interactions entertaining. He was tireless worker at the executive level for many organisations. He was a founding member of the Canadian Society for Endocrinology and Metabolism and a governor of the Ontario chapter of the American College of Physicians. As a medical adviser he played a leading role in the development ofthe Thyroid Foundation of Canada, and regularly contributed a column to its Thyrobulletin publication, answering questions from thyroid patients. He was anactive member in the American Thyroid Association for 45 years and became its President in 1981 and was selected to deliver the distinguished prize lecture in 1991. Honorary fellowships were bestowed upon him by the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh in 1992 and of London in 1995. For his outstanding contributions in Canada and abroad he was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2003.

His wife Ruth, whom he married in 1949, was a devoted supporter of all his professional activities and friendships. Unfortunately, she predeceased him suddenly in 1997. This was a great loss from which he never really recovered. In spite of progressive chronic illness over the last several years, he carried on an active medical practice until the time of death. His critical and authoritative voice at many meetings, as well as his devotion to his patients, friends, family and numerous Canadian and American organisations will be missed.

Paul G Walfish

(Volume XII, page web)

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