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Robert Hamburger, M.D.


Robert N. Hamburger M.D.

Emeritus Professor of Pediatrics

UC San Diego

1923 – 2014


Robert N. Hamburger, Professor Emeritus at the School of Medicine, UC San Diego, passed away on October 6, 2014, at the age of 91. One of the founding fathers of UCSD School of Medicine, he will also be remembered as an American hero, astute clinician, an innovative scientist, a dedicated educator, a committed activist, devoted philanthropist, and caring husband and father.


A graduate of the University of North Carolina, Robert was a P-38 pilot in the U.S. Army Air Force during World War II. After his military service, with Sonia and a little one in tow, Robert attended medical school at Yale University. After graduation, he worked at a hospital and then served as a Yale faculty member before being recruited by Dr. David Bonner to join the Biology Department at the newly established UC campus in La Jolla. In 1964, he was appointed by the UC San Diego Chancellor as Assistant Dean at the School of Medicine and served in this position for 8 years. 


Dr. Hamburger was the consummate academic clinician and translational scientist. His research interest focused on the prevention and treatment of IgE mediated diseases. Dr. Hamburger also served as the first Chief of the Division of Pediatric Immunology and Allergy between 1970 and 1990, establishing one of the preeminent training programs in the country. He was responsible for the training of dozens of Allergy Immunology fellows who have practiced locally and around the world, and therefore has had a significant impact on the specialty.


His interests expanded beyond direct patient care and medical science, as he was a major promoter of universal access to medical care here in the US.  He had a particular interest in health disparities in this country, particularly the African American experience. In 1999, he established the Lenoir Lectureship in memory of the wife of one of his first Allergy and Immunology fellows, Dr. Michael Lenoir. Dr. Lenoir’s wife, Andrea died during a severe asthma attack at a young age. The lectureship has had two themes - “Prevention, Diagnosis, and Treatment of Asthma, Allergy and Immunologic Diseases” and “Health Disparities.” Occurring annually near Martin Luther King Day, it has featured an impressive array of speakers over the years and continues to this day as the Lenoir/Hamburger Memorial Lectureship as part of the UCSD/Rady Children’s Hospital Grand Rounds series. Most of these lectures have been archived on UCSDTV and can be enjoyed online. (See link below)


Both Robert and Sonia had a huge love of music, so in 1976, Robert—after raising $1,000 from UCSD colleagues and the local community—presented one of the first classical music concerts on the then new campus. They established the Robert and Sonia Hamburger Family Chamber Music Series Endowment Fund, an endowment in perpetuity serving as encouragement for others to support the ArtPower! Chamber Music Series at UC San Diego, a series of vibrant, multi-disciplinary performances by emerging and renowned international artists. (See link to full story online)


Robert retired from the university in 1990 and was active in the UC San Diego Emeriti Association. He continued to be actively involved in fellow, resident, and medical student education on the UCSD campus and as an attending professor at Rady Children’s Hospital, the UCSD Student-Run Free Clinic Project, and the St. Vincent de Paul Clinic in San Diego. He continued to be a regular attendee and participant at San Diego Allergy Society lectures and in the weekly Citywide Allergy Immunology Fellows conference up until the week he died. He passed away quickly and without pain on October 6 at his home at the age of 91.


Comments from some of his previous fellows:


“Bob was a kind humble wonderful guy. It was an honor to be in his company.” - B. Prenner

“Bob was a true gentleman. It was a privilege to be a fellow in his department.”  - M. Mellon

“I have great sadness and a heavy heart.”  - R. O’Conner    


A Memorial Service will be held Sunday, November 16 2-5 PM at the UCSD Faculty club.


Arrangements under the direction of El Camino Memorial - Sorrento Valley:


UCSD story on Robert and Sonia Hamburger:


UCSDTV – Lenoir/Hamburger Memorial Lectureship




Hal Hoffman, M.D.