Einstein Mourns the Loss of Dr. Dennis Shields, Renowned Cell Biology Researcher

The Einstein community was stunned to learn of the death of Dennis Shields, Ph.D., a renowned researcher at Einstein, who died of a heart attack at White Plains Hospital on December 1, 2008.

dr. dennis shieldsDr. Shields was an internationally recognized leader in cell biology, where he focused on a cellular organelle called the Golgi apparatus. In particular, the research carried out by Dr. Shields was focused on revealing the basic rules for how protein precursors are processed and transported within the cell, and how the Golgi apparatus is able to sort the correct molecules to their appropriate cellular destinations. This process is highly regulated in all cells and when it fails can lead to serious cell-based disorders, including diabetes, auto-immune disease, and Alzheimer's disease. The fundamental advances in knowledge generated by the Shields laboratory have established the basis for novel and innovative treatments for these and other debilitating diseases.

Dr. Shields was a member of the Einstein faculty for 30 years, serving as professor of the Departments of Developmental and Molecular Biology and of Anatomy and Structural Biology. He also served as the first director of the Belfer Institute for Advanced Biomedical Sciences from 1996 to 2003, and as acting chair of Developmental and Molecular Biology from 1993 to 1994. In his role at the Belfer Institute, Dr. Shields served as the chief advocate representing the institution's post-doctoral fellows, ensuring their various personal and professional needs were met and that they felt truly valued by the institution. His leadership laid the foundation for this important role at Einstein.

"We are profoundly saddened by the sudden passing of our esteemed colleague and friend, Dennis Shields," said Allen M. Spiegel, M.D., The Marilyn and Stanley M. Katz Dean of Einstein. "Dennis was known to students, post-docs, and colleagues as a wonderful mentor, teacher, thinker, and friend, as well as a brilliant scientist. His warmth, intelligence and humor will truly be missed."

�We are filled with grief at the premature departure of our dearly loved colleague,� said E. Richard Stanley, Ph.D., chair of developmental and molecular biology. �In addition to his international renown as a cell biologist, we�ll remember Dennis most for his enthusiasm, wit, deep humanity, and devotion to his colleagues and trainees.�

During his distinguished career, Dr. Shields was the recipient of multiple awards and accolades, including two awards each from the National Institutes of Health (1988 and 1999) and the American Diabetes Association (1979 and 1980), and a career development award from the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation in 1983. He also was cited multiple times by the National Institutes of Health for his groundbreaking work in the fields of Cell Biology, Diabetes, and Endocrinology.

At the time of his death, Dr. Shields was engaged in an NIH-funded study, entitled "Biosynthesis and Processing of Peptide Hormone Precursors," to dissect the mechanisms by which phospholipid metabolism and protein factors regulate secretory vesicle budding from the TGN of endocrine cells.

A native of Great Britain, Dr. Shields earned his Ph.D. in biochemistry in 1974 at the National Institute for Medical Research in London. He did his post-doctoral work in cell biology at Rockefeller University, in New York, in 1977. He earned his B.A. in biology (with honors) in 1971 from the University of York, in Great Britain.

Dr. Shields is survived by his wife, Toni, daughters Rebecca (a 2nd-year medical student at Einstein) and Jacqueline, son Matthew, son-in-law David, and a sister, Elaine and her husband, Francis.

The March 2009 issue of ASBMB Today contains a retrospective of Dr. Shields' career, on pages 14 to 16, which can be viewed by clicking on the link above.

Posted on: Thursday, December 04, 2008