Clive Rosendorff is an internationally renowned cardiologist, known particularly for his pioneering work on the control of blood vessels by the sympathetic nervous system, and for studies on the pharmacology and therapeutic use of drugs for the treatment of hypertension, heart failure and coronary artery disease. Over his career his research has investigated hypertension, vascular biology, cardiovascular pharmacology, coronary blood flow, cerebral circulation and geriatric cardiology, much of which significantly changed the way these topics were understood, resulting in much improved disease management outcomes for patients.
Clive entered Wits medical school in 1955, aged seventeen years. He completed BSc (Honours) in Experimental Physiology 1958 (with Laurence Geffen and Martin Bobrow) and graduated MB BCh in 1962.
During his medical student days, he was prominent in University anti-apartheid activities. Those were the years of deepest apartheid, and the student body at Wits, especially the medical students, were at the forefront of student efforts to safeguard academic freedom, and to desegregate the teaching hospitals. Some even sacrificed their own freedom in the wider struggle against apartheid.
Clive Rosendorff was Chair of the Academic Freedom Committee; a member of the National Executive of the National Union of South African Students (1957); President of the Association of Medical Students of South Africa (1959); and President of the SRC (1960-61).
To London University
After an intern year at the Johannesburg Hospital, he went to the United Kingdom on a British Council Scholarship to work on the mechanical properties of mammalian muscle, with Professor Arthur Buller, at King’s College, London. The next year he was appointed a lecturer on the staff of the Department of Medicine at St Thomas’s Hospital Medical School, one of the premier medical schools of the University of London, where he completed training in Internal Medicine and in Cardiology, becoming a Member of the Royal College of Physicians of London (MRCP) in 1966.
At the same time, he established a productive laboratory with Professor William Cranston, the Head of the Department, in the area of cerebral and coronary blood flow. This was a particularly productive research period for him, culminating in the award of a PhD from the University of London in 1969.
To Yale University
From 1969 to 1970 Clive spent a year as a British Heart Foundation and American Heart Association Research Fellow at Yale University School of Medicine, where he was a Visiting Scientist and Visiting Assistant Professor, Department of Internal Medicine.
Professor of Physiology at Wits 1970
While he was at Yale, he was invited at the age of just 32, to return to South Africa to be Sir Otto Beit Professor and Chairman of the Department of Physiology at Wits. In 1970 he was also appointed Senior Physician in the Department of Medicine. He served in those capacities for 17 years. Those were exciting years. The Department of Physiology was rapidly built up to become the premier department in the country, with its research output greater that all the other Departments of Physiology in the country combined.
The Medical Research Council Circulation Research Unit was established under Clive’s directorship, and attracted investigators from the USA, Europe and Australia. The main focus of research was cardiovascular disease, particularly coronary artery disease and stroke. The group studied the factors affecting blood flow in the brain, kidneys and heart. He pioneered new radio-isotope techniques for the measurement of local blood flow in organs and was among the first investigators to show that there was a close association between serum cholesterol concentration and local blood flow.
He also developed new methods for quantifying adrenergic receptors in the heart and blood vessels. This work was rewarded with a Doctor of Medicine degree in 1977, for a published work entitled Autonomic physiology of organ blood flow. During this time, he was Visiting Professor and Visiting Senior Scientist at the Cardiovascular Research Institute, University of California, San Francisco, working with Dr Julien I.E. Hoffman on the control of myocardial blood flow (January to December 1977).
He was elected a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of London in 1980. Other honors include the Fellowships of the American College of Cardiology (1981) and of the American Heart Association (1996).
Dean of Wits Medical School (1987-1989)
After 17 years as professor of Physiology as well as Senior Physician, Clive Rosendorff became the Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at Wits Medical School in 1987 and continued for three years until 1989.
The 1980s were turbulent times in South African history. Professor Rosendorff vigorously associated himself with opposition to apartheid within the provincial hospital system and in the broader community. He was a leader in the struggle for the elimination of apartheid in the universities and in the provincial hospitals. There were numerous meetings with national and provincial authorities, protest marches and meetings, including one demanding the release of Nelson Mandela, and many motions by the Faculty Board and the Senate and Council of the University to desegregate the teaching hospitals, all to no avail at that time.
“There is complete support for desegregation of the hospital among the medical staff”, said Rosendorff in 1989, adding that he “and other faculty members opposed apartheid medicine [and were] humiliated and embarrassed to have to practice it.” (New York Times August 3, 1989.)
Sabbatical to Paris and New York
It was at the end of the three year term of office as Dean that another sabbatical took him to Paris for six months, to INSERM (The French Institute of Health and Medical Research) at the Hôpital Necker, and INSERM U127, at the Hôpital Lariboisiére.(1990); and then, for another six months, to New York, as Alexander B Gutman Professor in Residence, Department of Medicine, the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, NY (1990).
Professor and Vice Chairman at Mt Sinai
In 1992 he relocated to the United States to become Professor and Vice-Chairman of the Department of Medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and Mount Sinai Heart, and Chairman of Medicine at the Bronx VA Hospital in New York City.
He achieved his Fellowship of the American College of Physicians (1994), and Fellowship of the American Heart Association (AHA) (1986).
Writer researcher and speaker
Clive is an accomplished writer, researcher, and speaker, and serves on the editorial boards of 12 major cardiovascular journals. He has authored three textbooks and over 250 peer-reviewed research papers and book chapters on the subjects of hypertension, vascular biology, cardiovascular pharmacology, coronary blood flow, the cerebral circulation, and geriatric cardiology.
He has lectured nationally and internationally on the topics of vascular biology and atherogenesis, preventive cardiology, especially as it relates to hypertension and lipid disorders, and acute coronary syndrome and heart failure. He served as chair of the AHA/ACC Guidelines Committee on the management of hypertension in patients with ischemic heart disease. He was also principal investigator of an international study of Brain Natriuretic peptide (BNP) in heart failure and is on a Steering Committee for the National Institute of Health (NIH)-sponsored Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial (SPRINT).
Still working full time!
Clive lives (and still works full-time) in Manhattan, New York, and his family includes his wife Daphne, an Art Historian, and three children, Peter, a Professor in the Department of Political Science, New York University, Nicola, an interior designer, and Adam, an MD Clinical Pathologist working in a biotechnology company. Of interest, Clive and the late Phillip Tobias were first cousins.
Clive Rosendorff says, “My debt to Wits University, and particularly our Medical School, is enormous. It was here that I learned the craft of medicine, and also that much of medicine is applied basic science. What a privilege it is to have been at the medical school then to learn from some of the giants of basic science and then of clinical medicine!”
Biography contributed by
Clive Rosendorff, MB BCh (Rand) MD, PhD, DScMed
Manhattan, New York, July 2020
Professor of Medicine (Cardiology), Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai,
New York, NY, and James J. Peters VA Medical Center, Bronx, NY.