The extremely sad news of the passing away of Professor Francis Greenspan, one of my very best and most faithful old friends, was a great blow to me and, needless to say, to all of us who had the good fortune and the great privilege to know him.
Professor Francis Greenspan was a man of superlatively high academic standards, carrying out with great integrity and boundless enthusiasm whatever task he took in hand in the field of Endocrinology. He represented an epitome of courage, vision and deep faith and has been for all of us, younger and older, a noble example and an unparalleled inspiration.
Francis Greenspan started working at the University of California San Francisco Thyroid Clinic in 1959 and was Chief of the Clinic until his retirement in 2010. During his time at the UCSF he taught every Endocrine fellow as well as thousands of medical residents. His area of contribution to Endocrinology concerned chiefly the diseases of the thyroid gland and, thanks to his exceptionally rich and creative scientific work in the field, he will remain a towering figure in the World Medical Association. He is famous, moreover, worldwide for his acclaimed textbook, “Greenspan’s Basic and Clinical Endocrinology”. Thanks to his extraordinary, truly universal scientific stature, he passed on not only his precious scientific knowledge but also the spirit of continuous endeavor for the benefit of his patients, of his students and fellow scientists and of the entirety of Medical Science. If there was a “Hall of Fame” in the State of California for Great Men in the field of Medical Science and in society in general, Professor Francis Greenspan would most certainly have a prime place of honor in it.
It is no exaggeration to say that Frank Greenspan’s character more than fulfilled the ideal as described by the great philosopher Aristotle. Thanks to his uniquely warm personality, his genuine humanity, his continuous self-sacrificing contributions to Science and to the world at large, he has left a marvelous legacy for generations to come. A true “Renaissance man”, Frank had, besides Medical Science, a host of other passions and interests, including the theater, music, intellectual studies and a wide number of humanitarian concerns. I furthermore had the great fortune to exchange letters with Frank for over a decade, ever since I left San Francisco following my post-graduate studies at the University of California. Dr. Francis Greenspan will forever be remembered by the University of California and the World Medical Association as a physician who honored the “White Coat” to the ultimate degree and provided an outstanding exemplar for each new generation of our doctors. An indisputably great person, he will remain forever in our minds and in our hearts as a genuine Patrician of our the Medical Society.
At this point the beautiful words of the English poet Dylan Thomas (1914-1953) come to mind concerning the immortality of the spirit:
“And death shall have no dominion”
Professor Francis Greenspan is now an eternal traveler in the heavens—but he will ever be remembered with enormous love and gratitude, as this is superbly conveyed in the consoling words of the American poet James Whitcomb Riley:
is not gone. He is just away,
with a cheery smile and the wave of the hand.
He has wandered into an unknown land,
and left us wondering how very fair
it needs must be, since he lingers there....”.
Fotios Pavlatos, MD