Bruce Tune, Founder Of Stanford Pediatric Nephrology Division, Dies At 71

-- Bruce Tune, MD, who founded the Division of Pediatric Nephrology at the Stanford University School of Medicine, died June 25 at his home in Palo Alto of complications of Parkinson’s disease. He was 71.

Tune arrived at Stanford as an undergraduate student and stayed nearly his entire career, playing many leadership roles at the School of Medicine. Between 1991 and 1993, he was acting chair of the Department of Pediatrics during the search for a replacement for Irving Schulman, MD. In the early 1990s, Tune was instrumental in launching the pediatric kidney transplant program at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, which is now among the most successful organ transplant programs in the world. He was known for compassion and dedication to his patients, gravely ill children suffering from a wide variety of kidney diseases.

“He was the epitome of a true bedside doctor,” said Oscar Salvatierra, MD, the surgeon Tune helped recruit to Packard Children’s to start the kidney transplant program. “He would spend whatever time was necessary with a patient, and especially with patients’ parents, to make sure they were well-informed. He endeared himself to the families because, in tough situations, he was there for them.”

Tune single-handedly ran the Division of Pediatric Nephrology for many years, with only occasional help from a resident, recalled Packard Children’s neonatologist Philip Sunshine, MD, who knew Tune well. “He took care of all those kids himself,” Sunshine said. “When he took a vacation, he was always worried that his patients would not get his care.” When Tune was himself hospitalized for a serious respiratory infection in the 1970s, he ran the division from his hospital bed while he recovered, Sunshine said.

Tune was born Aug. 26, 1939, in New York City. His family moved to Los Angeles when he was a small child. Tune came to Palo Alto to attend Stanford, earning his bachelor’s degree and then graduating from the School of Medicine in 1965. After an internship at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, N.Y., and a residency in pediatrics at Stanford, Tune moved to Washington, D.C., in 1967 to conduct research at the National Institutes of Health. There he met Nancy Doolittle, who soon became his wife. After their marriage in 1969, the couple returned to California so that Tune could assume the position of chief resident in pediatrics at Stanford.

Tune was then offered the opportunity to stay at Stanford and start the Division of Pediatric Nephrology. “He loved the patients — they were important to him personally,” his wife recalled.

As a faculty member at the School of Medicine, Tune was known for his teaching skills. “He was a warm colleague to trainees and a very approachable professor,” said Charles Prober, MD, now the school’s senior associate dean for medical education.

Prober first met Tune in the late 1970s, when Prober was a fellow in pediatric infectious disease. Prober recalls sharing the care of one particularly memorable child with Tune. “The young patient had developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, precipitated by a severe bacterial infection caused by an uncommon bacteria,” Prober recalled. When the case resolved, Tune encouraged and helped Prober to write a case report. “It’s not every faculty member that will reach down to a fellow in training and support and mentor that process,” he said.

Prober and Tune worked closely again in the early 1990s, when Prober was acting chief of staff at Packard Children’s during the transition period while Tune led the Department of Pediatrics.

Tune’s departmental colleagues honored him for several years with the Bruce Tune Award, which Sunshine established in the 1970s for the house officer who had made the best diagnosis or given the best treatment during the previous year.

In addition to his enthusiasm for clinical care, Tune enjoyed the scientific discovery process, his wife said. “Every few months he would come home from the lab just on fire with some new idea,” she said. Tune published several scientific papers on the nephrotoxicity of cephalosporin antibiotics, among other topics.

“I knew Bruce as an astoundingly bright scientific physician, one who could get to the central aspect of both science and disease with a few insightful questions and observations,” said his longtime colleague and close friend Irving Weissman, MD, now a professor of pathology and of developmental biology.

Away from his job, Tune enjoyed spending time with his family, including daughter Sara, now of Toronto, and son Steve, now of Portland, Ore.

“I have so many memories of him being there — for everything from major milestones to day-to-day activities,” Sara Tune said, recalling that her dad always attended her children’s theater performances and softball games. Near the end of his life, he enjoyed a long visit from his first grandchild, Sara’s daughter Isabel, when the two came to see him from their home in Canada.

His son, Steve, fondly remembers his dad taking him to Cub Scout meetings and preparing for the annual pinewood derby contest. “When I first entered, most of the other scouts had been designing cars for several years, but we worked together and placed in the top three in my division,” he said.

Tune was a skilled photographer — his wife said that when she first met him, the bathroom of his Washington, D.C., apartment was set up as a darkroom. He enjoyed music, and had a large and varied collection of recordings.

Throughout his career, Tune always wanted to help others succeed, concluded Salvatierra. “He was there for everyone who needed him — patients, parents, medical students and residents, the Department of Pediatrics when they needed an acting chair. Professionally, his heart and soul was all Stanford.”

In addition to his wife, two children and grandchild, Tune is survived by his mother, Sylvia Newman Tune of Orange, Calif. The family asked that anyone wishing to make donations in Tune’s memory consider giving to the American Parkinson Disease Association.

The Department of Pediatrics is planning a memorial service, although details are still being arranged.


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