Scientific, medical communities mourn loss of Stanford scientist, doctor Sanjiv Sam Gambhir

Sanjiv Sam Gambhir

Ritu Jha-

Noted scientist and physician Dr. Sanjiv Sam Gambhir, MD, PhD, professor and chair of the Department of Radiology at Stanford University School of Medicine, passed away on Saturday morning July 18 from cancer. He was 57.

Gambhir was the Virginia and D.K. Ludwig Professor in Cancer Research and director of the Molecular Imaging Program at Stanford (MIPS), and had international recognition as a pioneer of molecular imaging.

“Dr. Gambhir succumbed to cancer of unknown primary origin, this morning. The world has lost an incredible human being. It is a very sad day,” Elizabeth A. Gill, executive assistant to the chairman, Radiology, at Stanford Medical, told indica through an email.

Gambhir was known for his work in molecular imaging and nuclear medicine
PET-CT and early cancer detection, He authored 680 peer reviewed articles and had filed for more than 40 patents. In addition he was founder or co-founder of several biotechnology companies and also served on the scientific advisory board of multiple companies.

Among the numerous honors he received, last month he received the 2020 European Society of Molecular Imaging (ESMI) annual award. In 2019 he was honored with  IEEE Marie Sklodowska-Curie Award, IEEE Advancing Technology for Humanity.

Born in born in Ambala, India , he migrated to the US with his parents and sister in 1969. He was raised in Phoenix, Arizona.

He had a son who passed in 1998 from glioblastoma, a loss that took a huge
toll on him, one of Gambhir’s keen followers told indica.

Gambhir was an Indian luminary and it’s a huge loss for all, said Mahadevappa Mahesh, MS, PhD, an Associate Professor of Radiology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the Chief Physicist at Johns Hopkins Hospital Baltimore.

Mahesh, who met Gambhir met a year-and-a-half ago during a conference at John Hopkins during a conference, told indica he was in the forefront of science and technology.

“I have been keenly following him because of his work and because Stanford, John Hopkins… work on many things/research in a collaborative way,” he said and added he was not personally working with him but was following his work. Being chair at Stanford defines a person’s talent and contribution, he said. His labs were coming out with so many interesting, cutting-edge technologies in Imaging Science.

According to the Stanford University website, Gambhir had been a pioneer and
visionary, a mentor and inspiration and offered continuous and passionate dedication for Imaging Science.

Sharing the sad news with is colleagues, Prof. Krishna Shenoy, Director of the Neural Prosthetics Systems Laboratory (also known as Shenoy Group), called Gambhir both genuinely kind and brilliant, and a friend to many.

“And several of us and our students collaborated with him and his beautifully forward-looking and field-defining Canary Center for Cancer Early Detection and Precision Health and Integrated Diagnostics (PHIND) Center,” he wrote.

Twitter was filled Saturday night with tributes to Gambhir.

“I walked with a giant for a tiny bit of time and we are all out of words learning about Sam‘s passing. He became a mentor, a colleague, friend and someone I deeply admire. For his vision but also his kindness and humor. I will deeply miss him,” Jan Grimm, MD, PhD, Radiologist and Nuclear Medicine physician, @grimmrad, tweeted.

Sanjay Prabhu, MB, BS, @sanjayprabhu, Medical Director of Imaging Informatics and Assistant Professor of Radiology at Boston Children’s Hospital, tweeted,  “A great loss to the radiology community. Dr. Gambhir’s work was an inspiration to all of us. Rest In Peace, Sir!”

Lloyd B. Minor, MD, Carl and Elizabeth Naumann Dean of the Stanford University School of Medicine, Professor of Otolaryngology—Head & Neck Surgery announcing the news to the department wrote in an email, “Words cannot
express what an immense loss this is personally, for our Stanford community, and for the field of medicine.”

Minor called Gambhir an uncommonly talented physician-scientist, whose  lab’s work has been featured on dozens of journal covers. “But Sam was most proud to see many of his discoveries translate to the clinic, which today benefit patients around the globe.”

“To many of us, however, Sam was much more: a dear friend. His kindness, sense of humor, and graceful way with people were among his defining qualities and will be sorely missed by those who knew him,” Minor wrote.

Minor wrote he first met Gambhir in 2012 when he was serving as co-chair of the search committee that selected Minor to be dean.

“It was then that I immediately understood why he is so revered at Stanford Medicine and across the university. As a leader and as a person, Sam exemplified through his life the best of Stanford and the highest values to which we aspire.”

“Many of us witnessed Sam’s courage and tenacity during the 21 months that he and his wife Aruna fought for the life of their son Milan, who passed away in 2015 at the age of sixteen. Sam understood the fragility of human health and worked every day to apply his genius to research focused on diagnosing disease in its earliest and most treatable stages.

“Sam was an advocate for precision health long before it was popularized. In recent years, he dedicated his life to the early detection of cancer as director of the Canary Center for Cancer Early Detection at Stanford. In 2016, he established the Precision Health and Integrated Diagnostics (PHIND) Center to help create the future he
envisioned for health care—a world in which technologies continuously monitor our health to keep us healthy.

“Throughout his prolific career, he mentored more than 150 postdoctoral fellows and graduate students. These leaders, representing more than ten disciplines, will carry on his legacy.

“I hope that we may come together as a community, virtually and in spirit, to support each other during this difficult time and to share our memories of Sam—a scientific visionary, a trusted mentor, a beloved colleague and friend,” Minor wrote.

In lieu of flowers, the Gambhir family prefers donations to the PHIND Center, the Canary Center for Cancer Early Detection at Stanford, the Ben and Catherine Ivy Foundation, or The Sanjiv Sam Gambhir Professorship in Translational Medicine.



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