Dr. Samuel Kaplan, Pioneer In Congenital Heart Disease

Dr. Samuel Kaplan, a pioneer in congenital heart disease research and emeritus professor of pediatrics at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, died of cancer on January 21 at UCLA Medical Center. The Palisades Highlands resident was 81. Kaplan graduated from the University of Witswatersrand School of Medicine in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 1944 and completed his residency training before continuing his postgraduate training in cardiology at Hammersmith Hospital in London in 1949. He moved to the United States in 1950 to join the cardiology department at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, where he began his pioneering studies in congenital heart disease. As chief of the division of pediatric cardiology, he was among the first in the world to establish the specialty and is considered among the founders of this discipline. Under his direction, the hospital became a national and international referral center for infants and children born with heart defects. In addition to his clinical expertise, Kaplan made many experimental contributions to the field; his laboratory studies were instrumental in developing the membrane oxygenator that is still an essential part of the surgical procedure for open-heart surgery on both children and adults. Kaplan directed a superb clinical and laboratory training program in which each cardiology fellow was encouraged, nurtured and mentored to enter a career as an academician. Generations of his trainees are currently leaders of pediatric cardiology and occupy important positions in medical centers throughout the U.S. and other countries. When he retired from his position in Cincinnati in 1987, Kaplan was widely recognized as among the top five most constructive and productive academic cardiology leaders in America. At the invitation of the U.S. State Department, he lectured in several countries to share his expertise in pediatric cardiology. Joining UCLA in 1987, one of Kaplan’s most impressive contributions was his success in strengthening the postdoctoral training program. The respect and gratitude of several dozen fellows attest to his success. At UCLA, he also became the leader of a multi-institutional research program funded by a $9-million grant from the National Institutes of Health to study the effects on the heart and lungs of HIV transmitted from mother to infant. This work alone has contributed more than 30 scientific reports, has identified important heart and lung complications associated with HIV, and has identified appropriate treatment and follow-up for these infants and children. Kaplan, revered in both pediatrics and pediatric cardiology, was the recipient of numerous honors and awards throughout his career. He is survived by his wife, Molly; his brother, Solomon; his sister-in-law, Marie; and his nephew and wife, Tony and Louise McKenzie. The David Geffen School of Medicine is planning a memorial service and UCLA’s department of pediatrics will issue notices of memorial services. The family has requested that donations be sent to the UC Regents/UCLA Division of Pediatric Cardiology, Medical Sciences Development, 10945 Le Conte Ave., Suite 3132, Los Angeles, CA 90095.