Beloved clinician and mentor, founded Amyloidosis Center
David Seldin, Wesley and Charlotte Skinner Professor for Research in Amyloidosis, a School of Medicine professor of medicine and microbiology, and chief of the section of hematology-oncology at Boston Medical Center (BMC), died of prostate cancer Saturday at age 58.
A beloved, caring teacher and clinician, he was a world-renowned expert on amyloidosis, a rare disease caused by abnormal protein buildup in blood and other tissues that is linked to many progressive illnesses, including cancer and Alzheimer’s disease, and can lead to fatal organ failure. Seldin became director of the BU Amyloidosis Center in 2007, and chief of hematology-oncology the following year.
“Boston University School of Medicine has lost a distinguished professor, a brilliant investigator, an exceptional teacher, and a friend,” says Karen Antman, dean of MED and provost of the Medical Campus. “David had a marvelous dry wit and was a master of irony, which he delivered with just a hint of a smile as he waited for others to get the joke. He loved good, freewheeling critical science discussions, but coached, supported, and mentored students and junior faculty. David’s patients loved him. He provided expertise based on his extensive experience with amyloidosis, a disease that other physicians saw perhaps once in their careers. He treated patients with warmth and caring, while his research results provided hope. We will all miss him.”
A 1978 graduate of Harvard College, Seldin graduated from Harvard Medical School in 1986 with a medical degree as well as a PhD in immunology. He arrived at MED in 1994 as an assistant professor of medicine and went on to teach in a range of departments. His work as a researcher and clinician earned him many fellowships and grants and has been supported by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, the Avon Foundation, the Department of Defense, the Wildflower Foundation, the Stewart Endowment Fund, the US Health Resources and Services Administration, the Institute of Medicine, and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Seldin’s colleagues are remembering him as a passionate Renaissance man who loved to spend time outdoors hiking, skiing, and at the beach with his family. He was also an avid scuba diver for many years, a wine connoisseur with his own wine cellar, and an LP record collector and audiophile who built his own stereo system. But he will be remembered best at BMC as a generous mentor known for his kindness to nurses, patients, and colleagues.
“David was a compassionate physician, an accomplished researcher and mentor, and a wonderful person,” says Kate Walsh, BMC president and CEO. “His leadership and advocacy in the area of amyloidosis research and treatment are known across the country and the world, and he will be greatly missed by all his colleagues and patients at BMC.”
Martha Skinner, Amyloidosis Center director of special projects, says that Seldin was not only a brilliant scientist and clinician, but took pleasure in working with those just beginning their careers in medicine. “His special love was students and young scientists; he had an amazing ability to critique their work respectfully and encourage them to strive for the best,” says Skinner. “In fact, David had an extraordinary talent for inspiring his colleagues to excel, and he rarely took any credit for himself. He is one of the best colleagues I have ever had.”
Seldin and his colleagues developed a publicly available amyloidogenic protein database as well as an amyloidosis model used to test novel therapies. He collaborated with researchers all over the world, and devoted a large portion of his time to training and mentoring a generation of physicians and postdoctoral and predoctoral fellows in the conduct of clinical, laboratory, and translational research. He served on numerous thesis committees.
“David will be remembered by our community as a beacon of hope for his patients, inspiration for his trainees, and admiration by his colleagues,” says David Coleman, Wade Professor and chair of the department of medicine and chief of the BMC division of medicine. “He has led in defining new therapies for amyloidosis and in serving our institution with great distinction. David’s generosity, acumen, and brilliance have illuminated our department for over two decades. His example as a compassionate and pioneering physician scientist, friend, and colleague will endure forever at Boston University School of Medicine and Boston Medical Center.”
Among his many honors, Seldin was appointed to the Wesley and Charlotte Skinner Professorship for Research in Amyloidosis in 2014. He had been a member of an NIH study section and grant and program review panels for Canada, Greece, the United Kingdom, and Singapore. He was the first director of the graduate program in molecular medicine in the Division of Graduate Medical Sciences, and established graduate courses in cancer biology. In addition, he appeared on a variety of “Best Doctors” lists. He served on the scientific advisory board of the Amyloidosis Foundation and on the board of the International Society of Amyloidosis and was an associate editor of Amyloid, Journal of Protein Folding Disorders.
Amyloidosis Center colleague Vaishali Sanchorawala, a MED professor of medicine, summed up Seldin’s legacy with these words: “David Seldin—where brilliance met kindness.”
Seldin is survived by his wife, Elizabeth Hohmann, an infectious diseases specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital, three daughters, Stephanie, 26, Maggie, 23, and Diana, 21, and his parents, Florence and Ira Seldin of Chatham, Mass. BU Today will publish information about a memorial service when it becomes available.
To make a gift in memory of David Seldin, call the School of Medicine Development Office at 617-638-4570 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Donations will be used to establish an endowed professorship in Seldin’s name in the MED department of medicine.