Share This Obituary
Send Flowers
flowers logo

Memories & Candles

“We feel fortunate to have shared part of our life with Nelson and Ann. This enriching story has included work, travels and "normal" life for the last...Read More »
1 of 1 | Posted by: Jordi Bruix and Teresa Fusté

Nelson Fausto, Professor of Pathology and Senior Advisor to the Dean of the School of Medicine and former Chairman of the Department of Pathology at the University of Washington Medical School died at home on April 2, 2012 at the age of 75 after a long struggle with multiple myeloma. He was co-editor of the universally used medical textbook Robbins and Cotran Pathologic Basis of Disease and Arias' The Liver: Biology and Pathobiology, acclaimed researcher in the field of liver growth and disease, and teacher and mentor to several generations of medical students, graduate students, postdoctoral researchers and other younger colleagues.
Born on December 13, 1936 in São Paulo Brazil, he attended Colégio Mackenzie and Rio Branco College before entering (1955) and graduating (1960) from the University of São Paulo Medical School. In 1962, he traveled to the University of Wisconsin, in Madison, for what he had expected to be two years of postdoctoral research on liver regeneration. The brutal military coup initiated in Brazil in 1964 and lasting until 1985 changed that plan forever. With members of his own family detained or fleeing for their lives, and with his own history of political activism, Fausto chose for safety's sake to stay in the United States, and become a US citizen.

His talents as a researcher, teacher and mentor led him, in 1967, to Brown University, in Providence, Rhode Island, where a new enterprise in medical education (now the Brown Alpert Medical School) was just getting started. Nelson was one of the first faculty members recruited to the Program in Medicine at Brown University. He joined the faculty as Assistant Professor of Medical Science and immediately initiated a highly successful research program studying liver regeneration. He was married to fellow researcher, Anne Fausto-Sterling, from 1966 to 1992. In 1983, he became founding chair of the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at Brown and later Brown's Asa Messer Professor. Later, in 1992, he wed Ann De Lancey, a clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst.

Between 1967 and 1987, Fausto organized and directed the General Pathology course at Brown for first-year medical students. His enthusiasm and dedication as a teacher were recognized by Distinguished Teaching Awards from the medical students in the classes of 1971, 1972, 1976-1981, 1983, 1984, 1986, and 1988. As founding Chair of the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine from (1983-1994), he was an outstanding leader and mentor for a new generation of teachers and experimental pathologists at Brown University. He inspired graduate students, medical students, postdoctoral researchers, and young faculty to pursue research in environmental health and human disease that has been sustained at Brown for 30 years.

His intellectual commitment was to understand illness in terms of the physiology of the healthy cell and organ. His teaching commitment was to support and encourage intellectual curiosity and creativity in his students and in medical practice. He received multiple teaching awards for his efforts, which were always shaped by a gentle kindness. His research interest was to interweave in vivo studies involving animal models with in vitro cell biological and biochemical approaches to assess growth and complex pathophysiological events in the liver. His passion and what he held most dearly was his capacity to love. "All the other stuff does not matter." When he spoke, his understated, heartfelt juxtaposition of English words, in startling and riveting fashion, moved hearts and minds. In turn, he was adored.

In 1994 the University of Washington Medical School lured him to become Chairman of the Department of Pathology, which he saw as the most important Department of Pathology in the country. Under his leadership the department held the largest number of NIH grants in the country for a long period of time. He guided a large faculty, which he saw as his family, while continuing his basic research into liver function and disease, topics on which he published over 200 widely cited research papers. He was President of the American Society of Investigative Pathology (ASIP) from 2004-2005. For nearly a decade (1992-2001) he served as Editor–in-Chief of ASIP's flagship journal The American Journal of Pathology. Under Fausto's considerable leadership and influence, The American Journal of Pathology's impact factor rose to its highest levels and it became the leading journal in the field of pathology research. In 2010, in recognition of his role as past president, as founding editor of the Journal of Molecular Diagnostics and as "an individual who represents the highest ideals in pathology and medicine," he received the Gold-Headed Cane award from ASIP, the highest honor offered by this organization. Among his other awards are the Spinoza Chair (University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands, 2000), the Distinguished Scientist Award from the American Liver Foundation (2004), the Distinguished Achievement Award from the American Association for the Study of Liver Disease (2009), the Arnaldo Vieira de Carvalho Medal from the University of São Paulo (2009), and the Distinguished Service Award from the Association of Pathology Chairs (2012). In the citation for his ASIP Chugai Award for Excellence in Mentoring and Scholarship (2000), one of his Brown University colleagues, Kim Boekelheide wrote: "Nelson is the quintessential model of the caring, responsible, and intellectual academic medical school faculty member...Nelson cares deeply about his research, which, for Nelson, means caring about the people in his lab and fostering their growth and development. Stephen Galli called him an "example of professional achievement, individual warmth, and personal courage rarely encountered." And Mark Tycocinski saw him as a "magnificent human being." A nurse told him he was "beautiful."
Between Fausto's tenure at the University of Washington (18 years) and Brown (11 years), he is the longest continuously serving chair of pathology in the history of the Association of Pathology Chairs.

Over the years, his accumulated work has won him many honors. But his story is important beyond the world of academic medicine, because it represents an on-going tale of generations of immigration, movement around the world, achievement, and gentle generosity of spirit. Both parents entered Brazil through the port of Santos, his