Jeffrey Maisels is recognized internationally for his studies in neonatal jaundice and his publications on this topic which extend over 49 years. He currently serves as Professor, Chair Emeritus, and Director of Academic Affairs, Department of Pediatrics, Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine, Rochester and Royal Oak, Michigan USA.
Early life and training
Jeffrey was born in Johannesburg and attended the King Edward Vll Preparatory and High Schools in Johannesburg, matriculating in 1954. He writes: ‘I was fortunate to be blessed with loving parents, both of whom were deeply involved and leaders in Jewish Community activities. My father, Israel A Maisels, an advocate, and subsequently a judge of the Rhodesian High Court (1961-63) and then Judge President of Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland (while continuing his legal practice in SA) is best known for his leadership of the defense team in the Treason Trial of 1956 -1961 in which all accused, including Nelson Mandela, were acquitted. Mandela maintained a close association with my father and during his presidency, consulted my father on several issues.’
Jeff writes: ‘I had a thoroughly undistinguished academic career in Medical School, although I was the class representative on the SMC from 1957 to 1961. But I did excel at squash - ultimately playing as a Springbok from 1962- 1964. I represented the University from 1956-1961 and was the Combined Universities Squash Champion in 1959, 1960 and 1961 – in which year I qualified MB BCh. Thereafter, I represented South Africa at squash, touring the UK in 1962-1963 and playing against Britain and Australia on that tour. I also toured Australia with the Springbok team in 1963 and represented South Africa against Australia in South Africa in 1964. Squash has been a sort of a parallel career for me – as you will see’
The picture above, is of me playing in Australia against the Australian Geoff Hunt in 1963. Hunt was 16 at the time. He subsequently turned pro and won the world championships 5 times (1976-81) and is widely considered to be one of the greatest squash players in history. He thrashed me in 1963.
At the end of my bio is another squash picture – (as requested by the editor) of me featured on the cover of ‘British Lawn Tennis’ the Major European Tennis and Squash magazine in March 1963, following the Springbok tour of the UK in 1962-63. No grey hairs!
Harvard Medical School – neonatal research
After house jobs in Johannesburg and a period of pediatric training at Baragwanath hospital (You can read the story of Avroy Fanaroff’s and Jeff Maisels’ experience of working at Bara here Newsletter #2 – Baragwanath) the Maisels family moved to the United States. Jeffrey completed his residency training in Pediatrics at the Boston Children’s Hospital in 1966. He trained in his subspecialty in neonatal-perinatal medicine at the Harvard Medical School, Laboratory for Neonatal Research, Boston Lying-In Hospital, where he performed his first studies on neonatal jaundice.
His work has contributed to the understanding of the epidemiology of newborn jaundice, the quantification of bilirubin production, the clinical management of the jaundiced newborn, including the treatment of hyperbilirubinemia with phototherapy and exchange transfusion, and the relationship between severe hyperbilirubinemia and brain damage (bilirubin encephalopathy). He was the first to develop a technique for the measurement of endogenous carbon monoxide production in the newborn using a rebreathing system.
Jeff started to play squash again in 1967 and played the US ‘hardball’ game as the number 1 for the Harvard Medical School team which won the local B league in 1968.
The Vietnam War
Having arrived in the US during the Vietnam War on an immigrant visa (the so-called ‘green card’), he was eligible to be drafted into the armed forces. The need for additional medical personnel during that war led to the drafting of many non-US trained physicians including Jeff Maisels. Fortunately, as a direct result of his expertise in the technique of the measurement of endogenous carbon monoxide production, he obtained a position as a research hematologist (from 1969 -1971 as a Major, and then Lieutenant Colonel) in the US Army Medical Corps at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, in Washington DC.
Jeff writes: ‘At Walter Reed from 1969-71, I played for the tennis team in a league against other military bases every Wednesday afternoon, except in the winter. For members of the tennis team, work ended at 12 noon on a Wednesday and we played singles and doubles for the rest of the afternoon. Such is army life!
I also received the local base newspaper that mentioned the upcoming Walter Reed Squash Tournament, so I signed up. There was hardly a squash player on the base although in the second round I was scheduled to play an orthopedic resident, Dan Morgan, who had played a lot of squash at college and had won the previous year’s squash championship at Walter Reed. The winner received a nice prize and the base’s organizer of all sporting activities, assuming Dan would again be the obvious winner, had asked him what prize he would like for that year. As you might gather, I easily won the tournament and received a nice silver tray suitably inscribed for which I duly thanked Dan. Dan also played on the tennis team and we became fast friends.’
Professor of Pediatrics
From 1972-1986 Jeffrey Maisels was Chief of the Division of Newborn Medicine and Professor of Pediatrics at the Milton S Hershey Medical Center of the Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine, Hershey, Pennsylvania.
In 1986 he became Chairman of the Department of Pediatrics, William Beaumont Hospital, and Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Michigan Medical School (Ann Arbor MI) and at Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit. From 2009 -2013 he was the founding Professor and Chair, Department of Pediatrics of the new Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine, Rochester, MI and Physician in Chief, Beaumont Children’s Hospital, Royal Oak, MI.
‘While I spent nearly 15 years in Hershey’, Jeff says, ‘I played very little squash but a lot of tennis. I got to Beaumont and Detroit in 1986 where there was an active squash league, so I started playing again. The US was transferring from the hardball to the softball game which for me was a pleasure and I won the State age 50+ tournament in 1991 and lost in the 70+ finals of the US National Championships in 2007.’
Societies publications and lectures
Maisels is certified by the American Board of Pediatrics and its Sub-Board of Neonatal/Perinatal medicine and is a member of the American Pediatric Society, the Society for Pediatric Research, and the Perinatal Research Society. He has been listed in the Best Doctors in America 1992-1998 and 2003-2006. Dr Maisels has served as a member of the Committee on Fetus and Newborn of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and as Chairman of the Sub-Board, Neonatal/Perinatal Medicine of the American Board of Pediatrics. He also served as Chair of AAP's Sub-Committee on Neonatal Hyperbilirubinemia and was responsible for drafting the 2004 AAP Guidelines and the 2009 update on the Management of Hyperbilirubinemia in the Newborn. From 1997-2006 he was an associate editor (with Avroy Fanaroff as editor) of the Yearbook of Neonatal and Perinatal Medicine and he served on the editorial board of the journal Pediatrics, from 2005-2010.
Jeffrey Maisels is the author or co-author of over 250 research publications and chapters in books and has co-edited two books entitled Neonatal Jaundice and Care of the Jaundiced Newborn. He has been a manuscript reviewer for 18 pediatric and other medical journals. He has lectured in over 125 invited national lectureships and visiting professorships and has lectured internationally in Brazil, Argentina, El Salvador, Poland, Japan, China, Israel, Canada, South Africa, Romania, Italy, Spain, Virgin Islands, Hungary, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Egypt, Philippines and Russia.
Honors and awards Avroy Fanaroff (below left) with Jeffrey Maisels, are seen in the picture below, after Jeff received his Virginia Apgar Award in 2007, for outstanding contributions to perinatal medicine. (Avroy had received this award in 2002).
Jeff explained: ‘The Apgar award is named after Virginia Apgar, after whom the APGAR score (for newborn babies) is named. The American Academy of Pediatrics Introduced the Apgar Award in 1975 and each year it is awarded to a single individual anywhere in the world (almost always a neonatologist, although it has been won by obstetricians, physiologists and an anesthesiologist). It is the premier and most prestigious award of the neonatal/perinatal section of the AAP and it is given for contributions to perinatal medicine. The perinatal period refers to the period that involves the care of mothers with high risk pregnancies around the time of delivery and the care of the newborn infant (by neonatologists) directly after birth and during the first month. It has mostly been won by US neonatologists but has also been won by several European neonatologists. Both Avroy and I have been honored to receive this Award.’
Jeffrey Maisels is also the recipient of the Douglas K Richardson Award of The Society for Pediatric Research for lifetime contributions to pediatric research. In December 2008 he was awarded a DSc in Medicine by Wits for his internationally-recognized contributions to the understanding and management of jaundice in the newborn.
He was also honored as a 2013 ‘Legends of Neonatology’ Hall of Fame inductee. He was chosen for a career spanning 47 years of clinical care and research involving management of the jaundiced newborn infant. The award was presented at NEO: The Conference for Neonatology, a major medical meeting for neonatologists.
Personal and Family Notes ‘Possibly as a result of all the squash’, Jeff writes: ‘I had a hip replaced in 2009 and another in 2010 but continued to play social squash until age 78 when I had to stop because both knees were down to bone on bone. I could no longer run although by some miracle they don’t hurt when I walk so have not needed to have a knee replaced (yet) and the hips are still doing well. Joint replacement is truly one of the marvels of modern medicine!
‘I took up golf at the age of 70 and it has aggravated me ever since. Such is the nature of the game and I have given up worrying about any kind of score although my competitive spirit still gets annoyed when I hit a crappy shot (unfortunately not a rare event). In the current COVID-19 crisis, however, it has been a real gift to be able to get out a couple of times a week on a lovely sunny day and play nine holes while still maintaining social distancing and staying outdoors.
‘I still occasionally play at the piano and guitar and remain devoted to Tom Lehrer, Alan Sherman, Abe Burrows (taught to me by Mickey Katzen) and the like, including WITS intervarsity rugby songs. I am prepared to wager that my US grandchildren are the only grandchildren from this class who can sing “MacDoodle didn’t know that his father was dead………” If any of you can challenge this, please let me know.’
‘I married Carol Elkin in 1961 and was blessed with a wonderful marriage for 52 years. Carol died of septicemia in 2014. We had 3 girls and a boy. The entire family visited parents in South Africa every other year, so they got to know SA quite well.
‘Lisa, our oldest, and the only one born in SA, worked in public health for the Massachusetts Health Dept. She had severe rheumatoid arthritis and her field of research and work assignment for the state was the provision and availability of medical care for disabled individuals. She died at the age of 39 from a ruptured berry aneurysm.
‘Gabrielle, who lives with her partner near Rochester NY, is an actor, playwright and teacher. She currently provides on-line teaching for home-schooled children. When she lived in Brooklyn, she ran a book club for 9- and 10-year-old children and an adult acting school in New York. She wrote two plays about SA that were performed at the Fringe Festival in New York and Washington DC. In these plays she played all 9 or 10 parts with perfect renditions of Johannesburg and South African (black) accents.
‘Amanda is a lawyer in the Disability Rights Section of the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department in Washington DC where she ensures compliance with the 1990 Americans with Disabilties Act (ADA). She and her husband Tom have 2 daughters aged 14 and 12.
‘James won a Marshal Scholarship (similar to the Rhodes’) to Oxford where he obtained a masters in Jewish Studies and subsequently a PhD in Jewish Mysticism at the University of Chicago and was ordained as a rabbi at the modern orthodox Pardes Yeshiva in Jerusalem. For the last decade he has lived on Kibbutz Hannaton in the Northern Galilee and he and his wife Debbie, have 3 children aged 11, 9 and 4. He does not have a pulpit but has achieved a national and international reputation as a scholar in Jewish Meditation (among other subjects) and runs retreats in Israel, England and the US (when COVID-19 permits).
‘In 2015, just a year after Carol’s death, I met a wonderful woman, Diane Klein, who had lost her husband in 2013, and we have become a couple, so I am doubly blessed.’
‘In today’s world of COVID-19 almost every one of us who is still alive and well should count our blessings daily. We grew up as the privileged group in the world of apartheid with every opportunity available to us. We benefitted from an outstanding education both in school and medical school at an unbelievably low cost. Many have emigrated, which is certainly a loss to South Africa, but we have contributed to our adopted countries. Although we are far apart, many have maintained contact with the friends of our youth who are now all part of the South African Diaspora in Australia, the UK, Israel, the US and Canada. Colleagues in the US are regularly amazed when I recount the fact that I have been a truly close friend of some Old Edwardians and Witsies for more than 70 years.’
This biography and pictures were contributed by Jeffrey Maisels MB BCh DSc (Rand)
Royal Oak, Michigan, August. 2020
Edited by Geraldine Auerbach, MBE, London
and enhanced by text by CG Brenner and Rochelle Keene, in preparation for a book on 100 important South African doctors who have made international contributions, to be published in 2020.