Posted on: June 20, 2017
Thomas Lee Robertson, Jr. Cardiologist (age 83) passed away peacefully on May 22, 2017, at his home in Potomac, MD. The cause of death was pancreatic cancer.
He had been Special Assistant to the Director of National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, NIH(1982-83), when he drafted the U.S. Surgeon General Everett Koop’s Report on Smoking and Health. He contributed to subsequent Koop Reports as Chief of Cardiac Diseases Branch at National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, NIH(1983~89). Surgeon General Koop’s continuous campaign became the most successful anti-smoking campaign in U.S. history, prompting the Congress to pass bills toward Smoke-Free America.
Born in Texas, he grew up in Georgia, California, and overseas accompanying his missionary parents, Rev and Mrs. Thomas Lee Robertson (from VA and SC respectively). He graduated from Mount Herman High School, Darjeeling, India. After obtaining Theology degree from Holmes Theological Seminary, SC, he decided to serve humanity through medicine and got Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry from Roanoke College in Virginia. He graduated from the School of Medicine, University of Virginia, with postgraduate research and training under a National Institutes of Health (NIH) Research Fellowship. After his medical residency at the U.S. Public Health Service Hospital, San Francisco, he was further trained in cardiology as Research Associate in cardiovascular disease at the same Hospital as well as at the Cardiology Division, Presbyterian Medical Center in San Francisco.
He devoted his life to clinical research and patient care. From 1968-76 he was Visiting Scientist at the Medical Department, Radiation Effects Research Foundation(formerly the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission), Hiroshima and Nagasaki, assigned by USPHS, EPA, through the National Academy of Sciences. He engaged as a research doctor in assisting the survivors of the two Atomic Bombs which destroyed those cities. His understanding of Japanese culture and commitment to bridging the United States and Japan through medical service was a life mission for him. He was a commissioned officer in the U.S. Public Health Service, Medical Director (06 Grade) and Associate Director for Research at the U.S. Public Health Service Hospital in San Francisco (1977-81). Following the NIH years, he was Director of Clinical Research of Thrombolytics Venture, Abott Laboratories. The University of Pittsburgh appointed him Associate Vice Chancellor for Health Sciences, Associate Dean of School of Medicine, Professor of Medicine, and Director of Center for Continuing Education in the Health Sciences(1990-94). He also served as Consultant, Graduate School of Public health, University of Pittsburgh(1990-97). From 1998 to 2007 he lived in Tokyo as Special Consultant for Research and Development at Headquarters for Daiichi Pharmaceutical Company, Tokyo, Japan. He published 61 papers.
He was a member of the Clinical Cardiology Council, American Heart Association, and five other professional societies. He played violin, guitar, Japanese flute, enjoyed theater, world traveling, occasional gardening, and contributed to charity regularly. His adventurous spirit took him to the Himalayas during the last summer of his medical school to capture a snow leopard. The leopard starred in a Hollywood movie, “Jupiter’s Darling” along with Eva Gardener. Upon his delayed return to campus, he rushed to the campus bookstore to purchase textbooks where he met Reiko Kamata, the first Japanese female Fulbright student sent to the University of Virginia who was to be his future bride.
Survivors include his wife of 56 years, Reiko; two sons, Morley Edmund Robertson and Henry Thomas Robertson; three grandchildren; four siblings; and a number of nephews and nieces. His generosity, kind heart, sharp wit, and dry humor are deeply missed. A private ceremony was held in his memory.