Discussion Forum
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Celebrating the Life of Dr. Joseph K. Perloff

This letter to the UCLA community was provided for ACHA to share by the Ahmanson/UCLA Adult Congenital Heart Disease Center:

Dear Colleagues,

It is with great sorrow that we report to you that Professor Joseph K. Perloff, the founding Director of the Ahmanson/UCLA Adult Congenital Heart Disease Center, passed away on the morning of August 18, 2014 at his home in Pacific Palisades, California. He was 89.

Dr. Perloff was born in New Orleans in December 1924, graduated with an English Major from Tulane University in 1945, and, after serving in the U.S. Navy in the Pacific Theatre in World War II, enrolled in the Biological and Physical Sciences program at the University of Chicago, where he was fortunate to study with such renowned scientists as Enrico Fermi. He then took advantage of the GI Bill, and did his medical training at Louisiana State University, receiving his MD in 1951. After an internship and residency in medicine and pathology at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York, he spent a formative year as a Fulbright Fellow with Dr. Paul Hamilton Wood at the Institute of Cardiology in London. Dr. Perloff returned to the United States where he worked at the NIH and Georgetown University and quickly rose to the rank of Professor. He subsequently served as Chief of the Section of Cardiology at the University of Pennsylvania.

Dr. Perloff moved to UCLA in 1977 as the Streisand/American Heart Association Professor of Medicine and Pediatrics. He perceived the need for an adult congenital heart disease facility because of the increasing numbers of infants and children with congenital heart disease that were reaching adulthood, and the paucity of adult cardiologists trained or equipped to deal with this new and complex patient population. He established the Adult Congenital Heart Disease Center at UCLA in 1980, to provide expert patient care, physician education, and clinical and basic research. The Center rapidly gained national and international recognition, culminating in a major endowment from The Ahmanson Foundation. The Center was the first, and remains one of the largest such facility in the United States. Although Dr. Perloff stepped down as Director in 2001, he remained extremely productive in his emeritus role, continuing to teach, write, research and lecture until very recently.

Dr. Perloff is the author of the classic textbooks, The Clinical Recognition of Congenital Heart Disease, The Physical Examination of the Heart and Circulation, and is co-author with John Child of Congenital Heart Disease in Adults. He has published over 400 articles in leading journals, and has been an internationally acclaimed lecturer in the field of congenital heart disease and related issues.

As the founder of a new medical subspecialty—congenital heart disease in adults, Dr. Perloff has witnessed over 4 decades of growth of this specialty, with current estimates of over 1.2 million adults living with congenital heart disease in the U.S. Dr. Perloff will always be revered as the “father” of this specialty, and his legacy will live on for many more generations.

Dr. Perloff had a very keen interest in the arts and humanities; an avid museum goer, he lectured at various venues on such topics as “Goethe and Color Theory” and “What is Abstract Art?” He is survived by his wife Marjorie Perloff, who held the Sadie D. Patek Professorship of Humanities at Stanford University, his daughters Nancy Perloff, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Collections at the Getty Research Center and Carey Perloff, Artistic Director of the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco. Dr. Perloff was especially proud of his three grandchildren, Alexandra Perloff-Giles (Harvard, 2011, first year law student at Yale), Nicholas Perloff-Giles, a junior at Columbia U, and Benjamin Lempert (Yale 2014, now with Teach For America).

A memorial is being planned for Sunday, September 28th. Details regarding the location and time of this memorial will be available later on the Ahmanson/UCLA Adult Congenital Heart Disease website: www.uclahealth.org/ACHDC.

Posted on Friday, August 22, 2014