Former Faculty Member, Well-Known Immunologist, Dies

November 30, 2006

John Heath Vaughan, M.D., an internationally recognized authority on allergy and autoimmune diseases and former member of the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry faculty, died Nov. 11 at his home in La Jolla, Calif. He was 85.

Dr. Vaughan joined the Rochester faculty in 1958. He became a professor of medicine in 1963 and served on the faculty until 1970 when he became chairman of the clinical divisions at the Scripps Clinic and Research Foundation in La Jolla.

At Rochester, he focused his work on rheumatoid arthritis, showing abnormal consumption of autoantibody and complement proteins in the disorder. He helped develop, along with Ralph Jacox, M.D., what is now the Division of Immunology and Rheumatology.

Dr. Vaughan played a major role in recruiting people in immunology to Rochester and in nurturing their careers, said John Leddy, M.D., professor emeritus of medicine

“He was a true physician-scientist and a leader in human immunology, which was really beginning to develop when he came to Rochester,” said Leddy, who trained as a fellow with Dr. Vaughan. “He had a very contagious enthusiasm and intellectual curiosity that infected everyone. He was sincerely excited by new developments in immunology. I was very fortunate to come under his spell early in my career.”

John Baum, M.D., professor emeritus of medicine who was recruited to Rochester by Dr. Vaughan, described him as “unusual in the extent and depth of his interests.”

“He was a good scientist and a nice man,” Baum said.

Dr. Vaughan wrote more than 300 scientific articles, book chapters and reviews. He also served on the editorial boards of four medical journals and was the co-editor of two textbooks, Clinical Immunology and Dermatology in General Medicine.

He was part of a long line of physicians. His father, Warren T. Vaughan Jr., was an allergist in Richmond, Va. His grandfather, Victor C. Vaughan, was dean of the University of Michigan Medical School. His three brothers also became physicians.

Dr. Vaughan graduated from Harvard College in 1942 and Harvard Medical School in 1945. He served in the U.S. Army from 1946 to 1948. After research fellowship at Brigham Hospital and Columbia University, he became an assistant professor at the Medical College of Virginia in Richmond.

At the Scripps Clinic and Research Foundation, he became chairman of the Department of Clinical Research and program director of the General Clinical Research Center in 1974. He headed the division of clinical immunology from 1977 to 1986. He joined the faculty of the University of California at San Diego in 1990 as professor of medicine in residence. He retired in 1997.

Dr. Vaughan served as president of the American Academy of Allergy in 1966-1967 and president of the American Rheumatism Association in 1970-1971. He received the Gold Medal Award for lifetime achievement from the American College of Rheumatology in 1990. He was an active member of the Rotary Club of La Jolla, heading programs in support of educational opportunities for students in Tijuana, Mexico.

Survivors include his wife, Marjorie Seybold, M.D., of La Jolla; daughters, Nancy O'Neal of Clinton, N.Y., and Margaret Elizondo, M.D., of San Diego; sons, John Vaughan Jr. of Washington, D.C., and David Vaughan of Yardley, Pa.; and six grandchildren.

Donations in Dr. Vaughan’s memory can be made to La Jolla Rotary Foundation Youth Scholarship Fund, 7155 Fay Ave., Suite D, La Jolla, CA 92037.

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