Friday, 20 June 2014 15:55

Tributes to Karl Nolph

NolphObitPhoto webThe nephrology community worldwide mourns the loss of Dr. Karl D. Nolph, who passed away at home on the morning of June 16, 2014.  Dr. Nolph was a giant among all of us, helping revolutionize the worldwide approach to patients with end-stage renal disease (ESRD).  He is synonymous with the modality of peritoneal dialysis and its development, which is perhaps his most recognized contribution to nephrology and medicine.  

He was born in Pennsylvania, graduated from the University of Pennsylvania Medical School and stayed in Pennsylvania for his post-graduate training in internal medicine and nephrology. After two years at Walter Reed, he joined the faculty in the Division of Nephrology at the University of Missouri in 1969 and stayed in that institution for the remainder of his career. He directed the Division for 15 years and became Professor Emeritus in 1999.

Through his leadership and collaborations with Jack Moncrief and Bob Popovich, continuous ambulatory peritoneal dialysis (CAPD) was born. The landmark paper that brought CAPD to the world was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in 1978, but his enormous efforts and contributions in this field had just begun. Through his hard work to obtain FDA approval for CAPD bags and Medicare approval for reimbursement in the United States, and working collaboratively with the NIH Artificial Kidney Program, Dimitrios Oreopoulos, Jack Rubin and a number of scientific organizations, Dr. Nolph made CAPD a reality in the United States and was instrumental in its development worldwide. Perhaps not well known or remembered is that the CAPD registry set up by the NIH with Dr. Nolph as one of the inaugural leaders was one of the paths that led to the formation of the USRDS.  

His tireless campaign to understand the science and improve the practice of peritoneal dialysis and to popularize this modality, as well as his highly collaborative nature, culminated in the establishment of the Peritoneal Dialysis Bulletin (the precursor of Peritoneal Dialysis International), several editions of the book Peritoneal Dialysis, the National CAPD Conference (the predecessor of the Annual Dialysis Conference).  He also played a key role in establishing the International Society of Peritoneal Dialysis. Dr. Nolph had over 600 publications and delivered almost 1,000 lectures worldwide.  He received numerous local, national and international honors, including a Distinguished Professorship and an Endowed Chair at the University of Missouri in his honor.  He was instrumental in providing training to many worldwide leaders in the field of peritoneal dialysis.   

Many friends and colleagues remember him for much more than his scientific and academic achievements and outstanding contributions to the field of ESRD care. Within hours after the announcement of his passing, messages started pouring in, expressing great sorrow and lamenting the loss of a decent, kind and generous man, who cared deeply about his family, colleagues, trainees and the less fortunate. 

Some quotations from prominent nephrologists around the world were: “he was a true gentleman, scholar”, “a serious man with an enjoyable sense of humor”, “a giant in our field and one man to whom many of us looked up to for guidance and inspiration”, “he had a big influence on my career and professional attitude”, “a kind man with a strong sense of the dignity of medicine and our need to have high standards”, “all of our lives were better just knowing Karl”.  “My life was deeply and positively impacted by getting to call Karl my friend” and “his loss is profound and the void marked by his departure wide and deep”.  The medical and nephrology worlds, and all who knew him, will truly miss Karl Nolph. His legacy will be part of the world of nephrology for many years to come.  


This tribute to Karl Nolph was contributed by Fredric Finkelstein, Nathan Levin and Alfred Cheung.

 

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