Obituary: William H. Daughaday, former director of metabolism, 95


William H. Daughaday, MD, a leading diabetes researcher, world authority on growth hormone and the former director of the metabolism division at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, died Friday, May 3, 2013, after a long illness, in Milwaukee. He was 95.

In an article about the early years of the metabolism division, he wrote that the division was characterized by “brown-bag lunches with free exchange of scientific information and lively discussion of the world and cultural affairs” where “yelling to one another from the various laboratories” was standard practice.

His interest in endocrinology dated back to his high school days in Chicago. The father of one of his closest friends was the head of endocrinology at Northwestern University Medical School. Daughaday visited the laboratory regularly and worked there after his first year at Harvard Medical School.

Daughaday was at Washington University from 1947 until 1994.

“Bill Daughaday was a brilliant physician scientist and a gifted clinician and teacher who became fascinated with endocrinology very early in his career and rapidly became one of the preeminent academic endocrinologists of his time,” said Victoria J. Fraser, MD, the Adolphus Busch Professor and head of the Department of Medicine. “His scientific contributions transformed the field, and he made a huge impact here at Washington University through his research, patient care and the educational programs he developed. Bill will always be remembered for his scientific curiosity, intellect and leadership.”

A highly respected clinician and teacher, Daughaday trained several generations of respected endocrinologists. In 1972, with the help of the late Louis V. Avioli, MD, Daughaday authored the first board certification examination for endocrinology and metabolism.

He was the founding director of Washington University’s Diabetes and Endocrinology Research Center in 1975 and that center’s successor, the Diabetes Research and Training Center, in 1978. The latter has been continuously funded for 36 years. In 1983, Daughaday was named the first Irene E. and Michael M. Karl Professor of Endocrinology and Metabolism.

Among his scientific contributions was his discovery of insulin-like growth factors, which are proteins that help neurons survive, interact with skeletal muscle tissue and protect cartilage.

Daughaday also did pioneering work developing and applying tests to detect the presence of growth hormone, proposing that growth hormone acted on the liver to stimulate the release of insulin-like growth factor 1. He also discovered how tumors that secrete abnormally high levels of insulin-like growth factor 2 can cause profoundly low blood sugar.

He came to the School of Medicine as an assistant resident in medicine at Barnes Hospital. Shortly after that, he did a research fellowship with Gerty and Carl Cori, a laboratory that helped produce eight Nobel Laureates. He joined the faculty and became the first director of the metabolism division (now the Division of Endocrinology, Metabolism and Lipid Research) in 1951, rising to the rank of professor of medicine in 1963.

Daughaday was a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Harvard College in 1940 and an Alpha Omega Alpha graduate of Harvard Medical School in 1943. After earning his medical degree, he completed an internship and research fellowship at Boston City Hospital. Then he spent 20 months in the U.S. Army, serving as a medical officer near the end of World War II in Italy.

He published more than 300 scientific articles, and his work earned him many honors, including the Fred Conrad Koch Award of the Endocrine Society (a group for which he served as president), election to the American Society for Clinical Investigation and to the Association of American Physicians and the National Academy of Sciences. He also received Washington University School of Medicine’s Second Century Award in 1993.

Daughaday sat on the NIH advisory council to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. He chaired the American Board of Internal Medicine’s subspecialty panel on endocrinology and metabolism, and he served as editor of the Journal of Laboratory and Clinical Medicine and the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, as well as associate editor of the Journal of Clinical Investigation and as a member of several other editorial boards.

Following his retirement from Washington University in 1994, Daughaday joined the faculty at the University of California, Irvine, as a clinical professor of medicine and moved to Balboa Island, Calif.

He is survived by two children, Elizabeth Daughaday Axelrod and John Daughaday; four grandchildren and three great grandchildren. His first wife, Hazel Judkins Daughaday, died in 1991. His second wife, Nancy Wolcott Ebsen, died in 2008.

A private graveside service is planned for May 25 in St. Louis.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Division of Endocrinology, Metabolism and Lipid Research in the Department of Medicine at Washington University School of Medicine. They may be sent to the attention of Helen Z. Liu, 7425 Forsyth Blvd. Ste. 2100, St. Louis, Mo. 63105. Memorial gifts also may be given online via this link.