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Abraham Morris Rudolph

Abraham (Abe) Morris Rudolph was born in this country in 1924. Encouraged by his parents to pursue an academic career he enrolled at the University of the Witwatersrand Medical School, where he graduated Summa cum Laude in 1946. After his internship year he worked in paediatrics at the Transvaal Memorial Hospital for Children.

In 1949 he went to the UK for Membership in the Royal Colleges of London and Edinburgh and was successful in both examinations. Attending the clinic of Dr Richard Bonham Carter at the Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital, and spending six weeks with Edgar Mannheimer in Stockholm, who was involved with paediatric cardiac physiology, fueled his interest in paediatric cardiology.

He returned to South Africa to get married, and in addition, completed a thesis on haemophillia for which he was awarded an M.D. Thereafter, he decided to further studies overseas. At the end of 1951 he was afforded the opportunity to work as a fellow in the Department of Paediatric Cardiology, Childrens Hospital, Boston under Dr. Alexander Nadas. Dr Nadas, himself, was a newcomer and a foreigner who had been invited to head to paediatric cardiology programme. During this fellowship Abe learnt the technique of cardiac catheterisation, which had largely been applied to adults. He then moved to Harvard Medical School to work in physiology under Dr Clifford Barger.

In 1955 Abe went back to the Children's Hospital, Boston, as director of the cardiac catheterisation laboratory. There he soon extended the technique to young infants, and was able to accurately diagnose a number of congenital cardiac abnormalities. His various publications (together with colleagues) at that time, are to-day regarded as classics, and have contributed to the modern understanding of the pathophysiology of heart disease in babies and older children. This included studies on the mechanisms of pulmonary hypertension and its treatment, with particular reference to newborns.

In 1961, Abe published a unique book Congenital Diseases of the Heart: Clinical-Physiologic Considerations, which was revised in 2001. Much of his insight into congenital heart diseases is incorporated into this publication. Dr Rudolph is best known for his experimental studies of developmental and postnatal circulatory physiology and pathophysiology in the pregnant sheep model. His application of the insights derived from these studies have led to the understanding and management of clinical disease.

Despite all of his clinical work and experimentation, he still found time for university and public service. This included participation in the Cardiovascular Study Section and the National Advisory Heart Council of the National Institutes of Health, council membership of the Society, Chairman of the Section on Cardiology of the American Academy of Paediatrics, membership of the Research Study and the Publication Committees of the American Heart Association, and the editorial boards of several prominent scientific publications. Dr Rudolph has published 318 manuscripts in peer reviewed journals. His many contributions were recognized by his election as a member of the National Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences. Overseas honours include the ArvoYllpo Award in Helsinki, Finland; the Jonxis Medal in Groningen, Holland. In 1996, he received the Doktuer Honoris Causea Degree from the Rene Descartes University at the Sorbonne, Paris. Then in 1999 he received the Nils Rosen von Rosenstein Award from Uppsala University, Sweden.

Dr Rudolph has been an active and much sought after teacher and lecturer, and was the invited speaker, some years ago, at the annual meeting of the South African Paediatric Association. He has also been the editor of the highly popular general paediatric textbook Rudolph's Pediatrics (now in its 21st edition), as well as the companion Rudolph's Fundamentals of Paediatrics.

With his intellect and his science, over a 50 year period, Dr Rudolph has spawned another generation of outstanding individuals in disciplines from cardiology to cardiovascular science and foetal medicine. Recent tributes have referred to him as THE leading figure in academic paediatric cardiology.