The Physiologist
Stan Schultz Stan Schultz

Obituary: Stanley G. Schultz (1931-2014)

Ray Frizzell, University of Pittsburgh
Jack Byrne, University of Texas, Houston


Stanley "Stan" Schultz, a world-renowned scientist, educator, administrative leader, and past-president of the APS died of cancer on October 24, 2014 at his home in Mountain View, CA. He was 82.

Stan was the Dean of the University of Texas Medical School at Houston (2002-2006), Associate Dean for Institutional Advancement (2006-2010), and professor in the Department of Integrative Biology and Pharmacology and the Department of Internal Medicine. He was chair of the Department of Cell Biology and Physiology (1979-1995). He retired from UT with the title of emeritus professor on August 31, 2010.

Stan is widely recognized as an outstanding scientist and educator who made fundamental contributions to the understanding of epithelial ion, sugar, and amino acid transport. His early work was the first to demonstrate sodium-coupled sugar and amino acid absorption by the small intestine, establishing the "sodium-gradient" hypothesis of solute transport and providing the rationale for the development of oral rehydration therapy. He was one of the first to recognize the significance of the paracellular pathways that traverse the epithelial barrier, and with colleagues he proposed a model for chloride secretion by epithelial cells that is widely accepted. In short, his work provided a functional identification of many of the channels and transporters that mediate transepithelial transport, which are now defined at the molecular level.

He was a native of New York City, graduating with a B.A. from Columbia University summa cum laude in 1952 and from New York University with his medical degree in 1956, where he was a member of AOA. Following an internship and residency in internal medicine at Bellevue Hospital, he became a fellow in cardiology and developed his interest in electrophysiology. His affinity for an exigent description of mechanism led Stan to the Biophysical Laboratories at Harvard Medical School in 1959 as a National Research Council postdoctoral fellow, where he met and worked with Peter F. Curran, a gifted theoretician. Together, they rigorously evaluated and modeled the "Coupled transport of sodium and organic solutes," the title of their seminal Physiological Reviews article published in 1970.

In 1967, Stan joined the Department of Physiology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine as associate professor and was soon promoted to professor. It was during this period that we came to know him also as an outstanding teacher, as evidenced by his award of several "Golden Apples" by the medical students. During our time together as junior faculty at Pittsburgh, there was always talk among the faculty about pedagogy, which was a hot topic because we all had to lead small group conferences (now called teambased learning) on various topics in the course ranging from electrical signaling in nerve cells to the countercurrent multiplier system in the kidney. We were all trying to outdo each other to find ways to explain difficult topics, not just to the students but also to each other. Of all the great teachers in the department, Stan was clearly the master of pedagogy and a mentor to us all. Stan had the unique ability to explain difficult concepts to the students by using examples and humor. We fondly remember his vivid explanations about how a pair of charged molecules move sequentially through a membrane channel to establish a diffusion potential by saying it was just like a poor swimmer like him being tethered with a large rubber band to an Olympic swimmer like Mark Spitz. To emphasize that he was a poor swimmer, Stan would say "To me, swimming is an attempt to stay alive in water." So you could envision the two "swimmers," the graceful Spitz followed by the floundering Schultz moving through that channel together at the same speed, but with Spitz always in front! If Stan could make molecules moving through a channel interesting, we felt that we had a chance at making our lectures interesting and understood. His storytelling abilities enmeshed basic science with history (e.g., the Broad Street Pump as the source of the cholera outbreak in Soho, London), providing a bit of epidemiology with secretory pathology. Another example of his colorful style was his conjecture of how the "man on the street" would describe the function of the kidneys: they make urine. But, Stan would assert, this is like saying that the goal of Michelangelo in carving the magnificent statue of David, which stands in the Accademia di Belle Arti di Firenze, was to make marble chips. Rather, the role of the kidneys is to "make the man." At both Pittsburgh and Houston, Stan had a profound impact in mentoring students and in developing the faculty, and we were fortunate to be recipients of his gifts.

At the University of Texas Medical School at Houston, Stan received recognition for his research, administrative leadership, and popularity among the students and faculty for his teaching abilities. One of his first successes upon becoming Chair of the Department of Physiology and Cell Biology was to argue that the floundering systems-based curriculum be replaced with a discipline-based approach. The newly constituted curriculum was a great success, and the physiology course that he ran consistently was voted by the students to be the best basic science course. In recognition of his enormous contributions to education, Stan received the 1999 President's Scholar Award from the Health Science Center, the highest honor bestowed on a faculty member by the UT Health Science Center. Although his tenure as dean of the Medical School was cut short because of health reasons, Stan was both an effective and beloved dean. He was particularly proud of his creation of the school's Global Health Initiative, his creation of a unique Surgical and Clinical Skills Center, featuring the latest in robotic education, and his oversight of the design and construction of the school's new research building.

Stan is the author of nearly 200 peer-reviewed research papers and the author, coauthor, or editor of 14 books, including one with one of us (J. Byrne; Introduction to Membrane Transport and Bioelectricity) that grew from lecture notes in the Pittsburgh physiology course. His many editorial roles for professional journals in his field include editor-in-chief of the American Journal of Physiology and the Journal of Applied Physiology (sections on gastrointestinal physiology), Physiological Reviews, the five-volume Handbook of Gastrointestinal Physiology, and News in Physiological Sciences.

A member of the American Physiological Society since 1966, Stan served as its president from 1992 to 1993. He has also served as president of the Association of Chairmen of Departments of Physiology, where he received the society's award for distinguished scientific accomplishments. He served also as chairman of the U.S. National Committee of the International Union of Physiological Sciences, chairman of their Scientific Program Committee for the meeting held in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1997, and he served on the Executive Committee of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.

Stan was the recipient of numerous awards, including the 1978 Hoffman-LaRoche Prize for Outstanding Contributions to Gastrointestinal Physiology as well as the 1999 Arthur C. Guyton Best Teacher of the Year Award, and the 2003 Daggs Award from the APS, given by the Society for lifetime contributions to physiology. In 2003, he was honored with the Solomon A. Berson Alumni Achievement Award for contributions to clinical science from his alma mater, the NYU College of Medicine. He was elected to membership in the Association of American Physicians in 1981 and to membership in the European Academy of Sciences in 2004, and in 2006 he received the Prince Mahidol Award in Medicine from the King of Thailand in recognition of his work that established the scientific foundation of oral rehydration therapy (ORT). ORT has been credited with saving the lives of millions of patients suffering from dehydration due to diarrheal diseases. In 2012, the World Health Organization cited ORT as second only to vaccinations as a life-saving intervention. In September 2007, Stan received the "Seeds of Hope" award from RESULTS for his contributions benefiting the health of impoverished children.

Stan is survived by Harriet, his wife of 53 years, sons Jeffrey and Kenneth, and five grandchildren.

Gifts in the memory of Stan may be made to the Stanley G. Schultz, M.D. Student Travel Award in Global Health or The Doris Simon Student Fund. Gifts should be mailed to: UT Health, Office of Development, P.O. Box 1321, Houston, TX 77251-1321.
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