In Memoriam: Former Deputy Dean of Yale School of Medicine,
Renowned Gastroenterologist and AIDS Clinician Robert Donaldson

Robert M. Donaldson, Jr., M.D., the David Paige Smith Professor emeritus and former deputy dean at the Yale School of Medicine died at age 75 in West Falmouth, Mass. on July 8.

Robert M. Donaldson, Jr., M.D., the David Paige Smith Professor emeritus and former deputy dean at the Yale School of Medicine died at age 75 in West Falmouth, Mass. on July 8.

Donaldson and Yale colleagues Kathleen Lundgren and Howard Spiro recently edited “The Yale Guide to Careers in Medicine and the Health Professions.” (Yale Press, May 2003).

A member of the Yale faculty since 1973, Donaldson served as the Yale School of Medicine’s deputy dean from 1987 to 1991 and acting dean from 1991 to 1993. During his career at Yale he was chief of the medical service at the VA Connecticut Healthcare System in West Haven and vice chair and acting chair of the Department of Internal Medicine.

Donaldson conducted research on the role of certain bacteria in gastrointestinal function and in diseases that cause malabsorption. He also investigated basic mechanisms in the absorption of vitamin B12 and the secretion of gastric intrinsic factor. His clinical studies related to peptic ulcer disease, chronic liver disease and physician usage of diagnostic technology. This research is cited in over 100 publications.

Donaldson headed a research program in gastroenterology and upon retirement in 1997, became an active clinician in the AIDS clinic and played a leading role in the development of the AIDS Care Program at Yale. He also continued his work as a beloved clinical tutor to first and second year medical students.

“Bob’s impact on Yale’s students, resident physicians, faculty, Department of Medicine, and Medical School is inestimable,” said colleague Leo Cooney, M.D., Humana Foundation Professor of Geriatric Medicine and Section Chief Internal Medicine/Geriatrics. “Bob set and expected high standards, but was extremely supportive in helping his colleagues meet these standards. His greatest legacy is the hundreds of students, residents and faculty members whose careers he assisted with his sage advice, direction and support.”

A graduate of Yale University and the Boston University School of Medicine, Donaldson’s honors included the American Gastroenterological Association’s Friedenwald Medal, honoring his outstanding contributions to the field, Boston University’s Distinguished Alumnus Award, and he was honored as a VA Distinguished Physician. Over the course of his career, he was on the faculty of six medical schools.

From 1967 to 1972, Donaldson chaired the advisory committee for the National Institutes of Health training programs in gastroenterology and nutrition. He also edited the journal Gastroenterology from 1970 to 1977, and edited and served on the editorial boards of the New England Journal of Medicine, the Journal of Clinical Investigation and the American Journal of Medicine.

He was a past president of the American Gastroenterological Association and a member of the American Society for Clinical Investigation and the Association of American Physicians. He was a member of the American Board of Internal Medicine from 1984 to 1990 and served on its executive board in 1987.

Donaldson is survived by his wife, Ellen, sons, Robert of Cambridge, Vt. and John of Brattleboro, Vt.; stepdaughters, Susan Garvey of San Francisco, Calif. and Katie McKee of Berkeley, Calif.; stepson, John Garvey of Pasadena, Calif.; and five grandchildren.

Share this with Facebook Share this with X Share this with LinkedIn Share this with Email Print this

Media Contact

Karen N. Peart:, 203-980-2222