Irwin Frank, Leading Urologist, Dies at 93

Oct. 19, 2020
Irwin Frank

Irwin N. Frank, M.D. – one of the most influential urologists in the last half-century – has died at the age of 93. Frank, who spent his entire academic and medical career at the University of Rochester, served in senior positions in some of the nation’s leading medical organizations.

Frank enjoyed a highly distinguished career in medicine. During the 60-plus years he spent as a faculty member at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC), Frank served as the chair of Urology, senior director and medical director of Strong Memorial Hospital, and senior associate dean for Clinical Affairs in the School of Medicine and Dentistry. He recently held the position of professor emeritus of Urology at URMC.

“Dr. Frank has had an impact on many of us throughout the decades,” said Jean Joseph, M.D., chair of the URMC department of Urology. “He has contributed immensely to both clinical and administrative aspects of medicine, training countless urologists and administrators who would follow in his footsteps. He remained very involved with our department all the way to the end, serving as an advisor to many of us. His devotion to the field of urology, to our department, and to the Medical Center has been unparalleled. We are grateful for all of his contributions.”

The son of first generation immigrants, Frank was born on March 24, 1927 at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, NY. He graduated from Franklin High in 1944 at the age of 17 and immediately enlisted in the Navy, serving during World War II in the South Pacific until 1946 as a radio operator and repairman. After the war, Frank attended the University of Rochester on the GI Bill, where he received both his undergraduate (AB ‘50) and medical degrees (MD ‘54). He completed his internship in surgery and residency in urology at Strong Memorial Hospital.

While he served his entire medical career in Rochester, Frank’s influence on the field has been national in scope; he served in leadership roles that helped advance research and patient care, and provided oversight of the U.S. health care system. He is a former president of the American Urological Association (AUA), a founding member and past president of the New York State Urological Society, and past president of the Northeastern Section of the AUA. Frank also served for more than a decade as the surgical representative on the executive committee of the Board of Commissioners of the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO), the organization that reviews and certifies health care facilities in the U.S.

Frank published his first paper on the cytodiagnosis of prostate cancer in the Journal of Urology in 1952, while he was a first-year medical student. He went on to author or co-author more than 50 journal publications and numerous textbook chapters on the topics of prostate, kidney, and bladder cancer. He authored the chapters on urological surgery in Principles of Surgery, a textbook known as “the Surgeon’s Bible,” that was edited and co-authored by his decades-long friend and colleague at URMC, the late Seymour Schwartz, M.D.

“Dr. Frank was a mentor and role model to generations of medical students and physicians at URMC and beyond, a consummate clinician and educator, and a beloved member of the University community,” said Mark B. Taubman, M.D., CEO of URMC. “He left his mark not only here in Rochester, but on the national stage through his leadership and role in the evolution of the practice of surgery and how we understand and treat urological cancers. Our hearts go out to his family.”

“Dr. Frank was a man of enormous integrity,” said Leo Brideau, former CEO of Strong Memorial Hospital. “He and I worked closely together on a number of initiatives, all aimed at improving patient safety. No matter how politically difficult a decision might be, Irwin’s answer was always the same – we have to do the right thing. Patient safety was non-negotiable for Irwin. As a highly respected surgeon, he had the moral authority to make any unpopular changes stick.”

Irwin is survived by sons Gary (Lisa), Steven (Robin), and Larry (Eric); brother Bertram Frank; and granddaughters Casey, Amy, and Rachel Frank. He is predeceased by his wife Marilyn of 63 years.

The family requests any donations to honor Irwin be sent to the Department of Urology at the University of Rochester. Out of respect for health and safety during the pandemic, the family has decided to hold a private ceremony. A celebration of Irwin’s life will be announced at a later time.