Celebration Monday for 99-year-old Morris J. Shapiro. M.D.

October 19, 2012

A celebration for Morris J. Shapiro, M.D., will be held at 10 a.m. Monday in the Evarts Lounge in Helen Wood Hall. Food and refreshments will be served. Shapiro, who has been practicing medicine in Rochester since 1946, turns 99 years old next week.

A professor of Emergency Medicine and professor emeritus of Surgery, Shapiro is the oldest active faculty member at the medical center. He still participates in the education of residents and medical students, working five days a week between the Medical Center and the EM offices at Corporate Woods. He also attends nearly every Emergency Medicine lecture and Surgery grand rounds.

“Dr. Shapiro is a tremendous asset to this institution,” said Michael F. Kamali, M.D., chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine. “His involvement and willingness to share his vast experience, particularly with younger physicians, is invaluable to those of us who have been lucky enough to learn from him.”

A Rochester native, Shapiro received a full scholarship and attended the University of Rochester as an undergrad in the first class on River Campus. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa in just three years with a bachelor’s degree in Biology in 1933, using his fourth year to earn a master’s in chemistry. He went on to attend medical school at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, graduating in 1938. He began practicing medicine as a military surgeon in the U.S. Army during World War II, serving in Africa and Italy in evac hospitals.

Shapiro came back to Rochester and worked at Rochester General, Genesee and Strong Memorial hospitals. He served as a general surgeon in the URMC Department of Surgery until his “retirement” 29 years ago, when he began work in Emergency Medicine.

During his tenure, he has had a significant impact on patient care at URMC and throughout the community. One notable example is his development of the first testing center for women with breast lumps. It was free for uninsured community members and was the only program of its kind for many years.

Shapiro has seen medicine evolve over the years, from a time when he remembers having very few medications with which to treat patients and fewer options for surgical procedures, to the introduction of life-saving heart, liver and kidney transplantation.

“Of everything, the heart-lung machine was probably the most amazing development in my lifetime, along with antibiotics,” Shapiro recalled.

The most important part of being a physician, however, has not changed. “I tell my students, you are not treating a belly ache. You are treating a person with a belly ache. No amount of new technology and pharmaceuticals can ever replace that personal relationship you have with the patients you are caring for. We can never lose sight of the patients.”

At 99, Shapiro is pleased to be able to continue working in the medical field. “It keeps me going,” he said. “I love the challenge, I love the students, and I love everything about medicine.”

Shapiro, along with his late wife, Miriam, have been long and active supporters of the University of Rochester and of the Rochester community. Mrs. Shapiro was a biology teacher at the University of Rochester, and remained interested in biology throughout her life. Even in her later years, she was travelling to far-off lands to study animal life in the wild, Kamali said.

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