Dr. William F. Friedman ’57, former executive chairman of the department of pediatrics and senior associate dean for academic affairs at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, died on August 25, 2005, in Los Angeles. He was 69.
Friedman, a gifted physician and researcher, had a prolific career as a pediatric cardiologist and academic leader that spanned more than 40 years, including 26 years at UCLA. “Dr. Friedman was a true leader and visionary in the field of pediatric cardiology,” said Dr. Gerald S. Levey, vice chancellor of UCLA Medical Sciences and dean of the David Geffen School of Medicine. “His knowledge and skill in the field of pediatric heart problems have been an inspiration to colleagues and medical students alike.”
Among his extensive accomplishments, Friedman’s research led to one of the most important therapeutic advances for the care of thousands of premature babies born each year. In 1972, he demonstrated that medical therapy could prevent the need for cardiac surgery to correct patent ductus arteriosus, a common heart defect in which a large blood vessel remains open abnormally after birth.
In the early 1970s, Friedman’s laboratory introduced the use of two-dimensional echocardiography, or ultrasound. During his pediatric residency at Johns Hopkins Hospital, Friedman edited the first modern edition of the Harriet Lane Handbook, a standard resource used by medical students and pediatric residents worldwide. He also began a series of studies researching the relationship between vitamin D, unexplained excess calcium in the blood and narrowing of the heart’s major arterial outlet, the aorta, above the aortic valve.
Herb Sturman ’57 recalled in his eulogy that Friedman “went to Columbia to play basketball and golf. Having a good time and playing sports were Billy’s major concern — grades and academic achievements were secondary.” Sturman told how Friedman decided he wanted to go to medical school between his sophomore and junior years, but “he had not taken the right courses, and his grades in the courses he had taken weren’t good enough. Billy approached Stanley Luftschein ’57, a first-rate scholar and premed student, who agreed to teach Billy how to study, with a condition. Knowing of Billy’s distractions, Stan conditioned his help on Billy’s resolving to become disciplined and focused in pursuit of his goal.”
After receiving his M.D. (cum laude) from SUNY in 1961, Friedman was a senior investigator and pediatric cardiologist at the cardiology branch of the National Heart Institute from 1962–67. At NHI, he initiated studies to elucidate the intrinsic physiological, pharmacological and biochemical properties of the developing heart. In 1968, Friedman was the first pediatrician hired at the newly founded School of Medicine at UC San Diego, where he was chief of the Division of Pediatric Cardiology and professor of pediatrics.
Friedman joined the UCLA School of Medicine in 1979 and received the first endowed professorship in pediatrics, serving as chairman and executive chairman of the pediatrics department. In 1994, he became a senior adviser to the provost and dean of the UCLA School of Medicine, and director of the training program in pediatric cardiology. In 1997, Friedman assumed the position of senior associate dean for academic affairs.
Friedman’s 51-page CV documents his being invited to speak by colleagues in medicine from Bologna, Italy, to Tokyo, Japan. He authored countless articles in professional journals and chapters in medical texts and presided at medical conferences in his area of specialization. Friedman dedicated his leadership to numerous organizations, including the Society for Pediatric Research; American Board of Pediatrics; American College of Cardiology; National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute; and the American Heart Association. He served on editorial boards for all of the leading cardiology journals. He was editor of Pediatric Researchand associate editor of Pediatric Annals.
Honors included the Cummings Award of the American College of Cardiology; the Distinguished Scientific Achievement Award, Award of Merit and Outstanding Achievement in Cardiovascular Medicine Award from the American Heart Association; the Founders’ Award, Section of Cardiology and Cardiac Surgery, of the American Academy of Pediatrics; and a Fulbright International Professorship. Gov. Pete Wilson (R-Calif.) appointed him to the California Medical Board in 1994 and subsequently to the California Air Quality Board in 1997.
Ed Weinstein ’57 reminisced about the transformation Friedman underwent during his time at the College. “Who would have thought it when we met in our sixth floor John Jay dorm suite, Billy hanging out of the window shouting, trying to attract the interest of someone below? Billy, the street-smart, aggressive, brash, narcissistic freshman, who transformed himself into Dr. William F. Friedman, a renowned physician and the ultimate altruist.”
Friedman is survived by his wife of 29 years, Denise; sons, Michael and Jonathan; two grandchildren; sister, Vivian (Jerry) Portnoy; nephew David (Shira) Portnoy; niece Sharon (Mark) Danzig; and nephews Derek and Tyler Stattin and Kevin Willett; brother-in-law, Bruce (Penny) Willett; sisters-in-law Donne Willett and Delle Willett (Carl) Stattin; and father-in-law Rolly (Carmen) Willett.
Memorial contributions may be made to the UCLA Foundation for the William F. Friedman Memorial Fund at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, 10833 Le Conte Ave., CHS 12-138, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1722.