Mentor to Generations of Physicians

Einstein Mourns the Passing of Its Longest-Serving Founding Faculty Member, Dr. Milford Fulop

Dr. Milford Fulop, Einstein's longest full-time faculty member and distinguished university professor emeritus of medicine, died Thursday, November 26, 2015.

Milford Fulop, M.D. To view a slideshow provided by the Fulop family, please click on the button provided below.
Milford Fulop, M.D. To view a slideshow provided by the Fulop family, please click on the button provided below.
Dr. Fulop spent most of his professional life as an internist at Jacobi Medical Center and held a number of administrative positions in the department of medicine, including interim chair of the department, chief of medicine at Jacobi, and, most recently, vice chair for academic affairs in medicine.

He was born in the Bronx in 1927, the oldest of Ettu Karl and Herman Fulop’s three children. His parents were young Hungarian immigrants, and his father died of rheumatic heart disease when Milford was just 8 years old, leaving his mother to raise him and his siblings on her own.

Through the 1930s, the young Dr. Fulop strived for and attained academic excellence. Educated in New York City public schools, he entered the newly opened Bronx High School of Science at age 11 and was awarded a Pulitzer scholarship (full tuition, plus support) for Columbia College at 15. After two years as an undergraduate, he was admitted to Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and Alpha Omega Alpha.

He credited his success in part to his mother, who came from a large family of high school and college graduates, including two lawyers and two engineers. “There was never any pushing, but she often talked of her brothers, and I think she felt I at least ought to emulate them,” he said.

After graduating from medical school, Dr. Fulop completed an internal medicine residency at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center. He served for two years in the U.S. Air Force as a medical officer during the Korean War, stationed in upstate New York and at a forward fighter plane base in Kimpo, Korea.

Dr. Fulop at Jacobi’s Home Sweet Home Gala, in 2013, where he was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award. With him (from left) are Dr. Rob Sidlow, Chris Fugazy, Allen M. Spiegel and William Walsh
Dr. Fulop at Jacobi’s Home Sweet Home Gala, in 2013, where he was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award. With him (from left) are Dr. Rob Sidlow, Chris Fugazy, Allen M. Spiegel and William Walsh
In 1955, the newly established Albert Einstein College of Medicine recruited its first class of 56 students and began instruction. Dr. Fulop was recruited by Dr. Irving London, founding chair of medicine at Einstein, to develop the department’s residency program at Bronx Municipal Hospital Center (later renamed Jacobi Medical Center).

“We had an unknown house staff, a load of patients ready to occupy medical wards at Jacobi, and a yet-to-be-developed chest service that would become the largest in New York City,” recalled Dr. London. “There was a resident at Columbia-Presbyterian who was universally recognized as the best and brightest, and when he accepted the opportunity to embark on a career at a medical school yet to prove its mettle, on a service that would be full of problems, I knew that we were very lucky.”

He added, “From the start, Milford set standards of excellence for the department, and for 55 years he was a remarkable center for these values.”

Dr. Fulop oversaw residents and orchestrated a number of medical school courses, including physical diagnosis, laboratory methods, and third- and fourth-year clerkships.

"In 1958, this young fellow just a few years older than I was seemed to know everything that was going on, and he even seemed to know what we were thinking about," recalled Dr. Leslie Bernstein, professor emeritus of medicine, at a symposium in honor of Dr. Fulop’s retirement in 2010. “He's just as amazing now as he was in 1958.”

Dr. Fulop with his wife Dr. Christine Lawrence
Dr. Fulop with his wife Dr. Christine Lawrence
"Making rounds with Milford was memorable," said Dr. Harold Adel, professor emeritus of medicine and one of Dr. Fulop's first trainees, who later assisted him in leading the residency at Jacobi. “I think he was the first person who used thoughtfulness as a way of developing clinical skills.”

In 1970, after Dr. London left Einstein to develop and head the Harvard-MIT Program in Health Sciences and Technology, Dr. Fulop served as the acting chair of medicine at Einstein for the next five years. While he served in various administrative roles through 1993, he continued to make teaching rounds with students and residents at Jacobi until his retirement in 2010.

"Generations of patients and trainees were fortunate to have a doctor when Milford made ward rounds," wrote Dr. David Hamerman, distinguished university professor emeritus and chair of medicine at Montefiore from 1968 to 1979, who later formed and directed the department’s division of geriatrics.

“Fostering the careers of the students and residents who came through our training programs has given me the greatest happiness,” said Dr. Fulop at his retirement celebration. “A handful were ready to quit their residency after a couple of weeks, and some thought that their early research ventures were disastrous. I was able to persuade most of them to stay on and to help steer them to the right path, and many of them became quite successful.”

As he advanced through the academic ranks, Dr. Fulop became professor and Gertrude and David Feinson Endowed Chair in Medicine in 1968, and distinguished university professor in 1994. He received numerous awards, including Einstein's Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in Clinical Teaching in 2000, the Silver Anniversary Honorary Alumnus of Einstein's first graduating class in 1980, and a Master of the American College of Physicians in 1993.

“Milford was the consummate clinician, educator and administrator, thoughtfully training generations of physicians to the benefit of both academic medicine and the health of Bronx residents.”

– Dr. Laurie Jacobs
Interim Chair, Medicine

“Milford's influence has been infinite. Einstein has probably the largest number of medical students going into internal medicine, and I think that's been largely due to him,” said Dr. Edward R. Burns, Einstein’s executive dean.

Dr. Fulop’s research included whole-animal studies focusing on the renal excretion of bilirubin and of phosphate (conducted with Dr. Paul Brazeau, former chair of pharmacology at Einstein). He also undertook observational studies of acid-base disturbances in patients, particularly those with pulmonary edema (in collaboration with Dr. Arnold Aberman, who went on to be dean of the medical school at University of Toronto) and with alcoholic and diabetic ketoacidosis (with Dr. Henry Hoberman, professor of biochemistry and a founding member of Einstein).

"The time I spent in Milford's renal clearance laboratory converted me from a young man with a general, casual way of thinking about science to one with a much more rigorous, reproducible, infinitely-concerned-with-detail approach to science. I took from this the enormous benefit of having a quintessential mentor, a person who made an indelible imprint on my life at a very important stage of my career," recalled Dr. Barry Brenner, who went on to lead the renal division at Brigham and Women's Hospital, in Boston.

When he retired in 2010, he said, “I have enjoyed my career in medicine, particularly the taking care of patients part and the opportunity to interact with many residents who taught me a great deal. I've had a very, very happy career as a perpetual student, husband, father and grandfather.”

He added, “I think some of the major challenges have been related to helping my wife raise our children. While she played a much stronger role than I did, she herself had a very busy academic and clinical career as a hematologist, and we had a busy time of it. Among my great joys, as an outgrowth of that, have been the children. They are terrific and have been very successful professionally.”

Dr. Fulop is survived by his wife of 58 years and fellow Columbia graduate Dr. Christine Lawrence, their son Michael, daughter Tamara and four grandchildren. Dr. Lawrence became director of hematology at Jacobi and professor of medicine (and later, distinguished university professor emerita) at Einstein. Michael is a psychiatrist in Baltimore, and Tamara (class of 1993) is director of breast imaging at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City.

He also leaves generations of students, residents and colleagues who value his dedication to the medical profession and education, as well as the lessons learned at his side.

“Milford was the consummate clinician, educator and administrator, thoughtfully training generations of physicians to the benefit of both academic medicine and the health of Bronx residents,” said Dr. Laurie Jacobs, interim chair of medicine. ”There are few with such sound judgment, and we will miss him.”

"I deeply appreciated Milford's wise counsel," added Dr. Victor Schuster, former chair of medicine. "He put the wind in our sails as a department, with all of the history and legacy behind us. It was a real pleasure to work with him and know him."

Editor’s Note: The College of Medicine is establishing an annual lecture in Dr. Fulop’s memory; watch for further details in the coming year. Photos with the story were provided courtesy of Jacobi Medical Center.

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Posted on: Friday, December 04, 2015