Pioneering Tucson pediatrician and internationally recognized scientist Dr. Vincent A. Fulginiti died of cancer March 19. He was 81.
A memorial for Fulginiti, who was the founding head of the University of Arizona's Department of Pediatrics, is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. April 29 in DuVal Auditorium at the University of Arizona Medical Center - Tucson Campus, 1501 N. Campbell Ave. The UA College of Medicine will host the event.
Fulginiti was a consistent voice in the Tucson community as an advocate for childhood vaccinations. He became founding department head of pediatrics at the then-new UA College of Medicine in 1969. He remained in the position for 16 years and later became associate dean for academic affairs and then acting dean at the UA medical school.
He left the UA to become dean of the School of Medicine at Tulane University in New Orleans for four years, and then in 1993 became chancellor of the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center.
In August 2012, the University of Colorado dedicated the Fulginiti Pavilion for Bioethics and Humanities on the Anschutz Medical Campus. The dedication honored the commitment of Fulginiti and his wife, Shirley to the, "ethical and humanistic implications of health care."
More recently, Fulginiti served as a member of the UA Health Network board of directors from August 2010 to May 2012. Fulginiti and his family also sponsored the UA College of Medicine - Tucson White Coat Ceremony in memory of their son, Jeffrey T. Fulginiti.
Two of his major contributions included groundbreaking work with the smallpox and measles vaccines, and deepening the understanding of infectious complications of liver transplants in children. In 2002 he authored a website about the smallpox vaccination for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A public voice for childhood vaccinations, Fulginiti recently spoke to the Arizona Daily Star about administering the smallpox vaccine in villages in India during the 1960s as part of the World Health Organization's elimination effort.
Fulginiti, who graduated from medical school in 1957, told the Star that many young adults have no "sense of danger" about vaccine-preventable diseases, and that is fueling a rise in parents who don't vaccinate their children. He noted that many of the younger physicians he's trained have never seen whooping cough, polio or measles.
He said vaccinations were one of the greatest scientific achievements of humankind.
"Have your ever seen a child with whooping cough? Have you sat by him as he strains to breathe trying to draw air in - as his lips turn blue, as his eyes bulge with the effort, and as he gives up and dies?," he wrote in an opinion piece published in the Star last summer . "Horrible? Yes. Unnecessary, yes."
Fulginiti was chief editor of the American Journal of Diseases of Children for 11 years and received numerous research and teaching awards.
In a prepared statement UA College of Medicine Dean Dr. Steve Goldschmid called Fulginiti a, "visionary leader in medicine and the health sciences."
Fulginiti is survived by his wife, three children and three grandchildren.
Contact reporter Stephanie Innes at email@example.com or 573-4134. Twitter: @stephanieinnes