Lives of the fellows

Saul Zwi

b.7 July 1930 d.11 August 2003
BSc Witwatersrand(1947) MB BCh(1953) FRCP(1975) FACCP FRACP

Saul Zwi was professor of respiratory medicine at the University of Witwatersrand, South Africa. He was born in Johannesburg. His father, Morris Zwi, was a company director, but his more extended family had medical connections. His cousin, Monty M Zion, is a renowned cardiologist and a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians. Another cousin, T L Sarkin, was professor of orthopaedics at the University of Natal, South Africa, while a third, C M Michelow, was a fellow of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. Saul Zwi was educated at Athlone High School, Johannesburg, where he matriculated at the age of just 16, gaining the best results for the year. He went on to study at the University of Witwatersrand. He was a brilliant student, gaining a BSc, as well as completing his medical studies, and receiving the Medical Graduates Association prize for the highest mark in medicine when he qualified in 1953.

He was a medical intern and a registrar at the Coronation Hospital and in the professorial unit at Johannesburg General Hospital. He then spent two years in England, at Hammersmith, St Stephen’s and Queen Mary’s hospitals. From 1956 to 1959, he was a research officer in the pneumoconiosis research unit, South African Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (SACSIR), and, from 1961 to 1966, a physician to the thoracic surgery unit at Johannesburg Hospital. During this period he spent a year as a post-doctoral research fellow at the cardiovascular research institute at the University of San Francisco. In 1968, he became principal physician on the respiratory unit, Johannesburg, and on 1 June 1973 he became professor of respiratory medicine at Witwatersrand University. He was elected deputy dean of the faculty of medicine in 1981.

He also held appointments with the asbestosis research project of the Medical Research Council, the Council on Smoking and Health for Southern Africa, the South African Pulmonology Society, the International Academy of Chest Physicians and Surgeons, the Medical Reviewing Authority for Occupational Diseases and others. In 1971, and again in 1983, he was visiting professor at the University of Chicago, and in 1993 at the Royal Brompton Hospital, National Heart and Lung Institute, London.

In 1994, he settled in Sydney, Australia, where he was a consultant at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and for the Eastern Sydney Area Health Service.

He wrote 128 publications, including papers on therapy for asthma, respiratory intensive care, occupational lung disease, pulmonary physiology and the effects of smoking on the lungs. He made early studies on the detection of newly described diseases, such as legionnaires’ disease and bronchiolitis obliterans, and researched the role of the autonomic nervous system in the pathogenesis of asthma, and on pneumocystis carinii pneumonia and the pulmonary manifestations of AIDS.

Zwi gained prizes, fellowships and honorary life memberships in the UK, USA, Australia and South Africa. He was a fellow of the RCP, the American College of Chest Physicians and the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, and was an associate founder of the Colleges of Medicine of South Africa.

In 1953, he married Helga Chalotte née Getz, the daughter of Judah Norman Getz, a company director. They had four children – Michele, Anthony, Paul and Karen.

RCP editor

[SAMJ 2003 Vol.93, No.12, pp.914-915]

(Volume XII, page web)

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