University of California Seal


Samuel Kaplan, M.D.

Professor of Pediatrics, Emeritus

Los Angeles




Dr. Samuel Kaplan (Pacific Palisades), a pioneer in congenital heart disease research and emeritus professor of pediatrics at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, died of cancer on January 21, 2004 at UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles. He was 81.


Kaplan graduated from the University of Witswatersrand School of Medicine in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1944, and completed his residency training before being awarded a scholarship to continue his postgraduate training in cardiology at Hammersmith Hospital in London in 1949.


He moved to the United States in 1950 to join the cardiology department at Cincinnati Children's Hospital, where he began his pioneering studies in congenital heart disease. As chief of the division of pediatric cardiology, he was among the first in the world to establish the specialty and is considered among the founders of this discipline. Under his direction, Cincinnati Children's Hospital became a national and international referral center for infants and children born with heart defects.


In addition to his clinical expertise, Kaplan made many experimental contributions to the field; his laboratory studies were instrumental in developing the membrane oxygenator that is still an essential part of the surgical procedure for open-heart surgery on both children and adults.


Kaplan directed a superb clinical and laboratory training program in which each cardiology fellow was encouraged, nurtured and mentored to enter a career as an academician. Generations of his trainees are currently leaders of pediatric cardiology and occupy important positions in medical centers throughout the United States, as well as the rest of the world.


At the time of his retirement from his position in Cincinnati in 1987, he was widely recognized as among the top five most constructive and productive academic cardiology leaders in the United States. In 1998, in recognition of his outstanding service, the University of Cincinnati established an annual Kaplan Cardiology Society Lecture Series, which continues to this day.


He lectured in several countries at the invitation of the U.S. State Department to share his expertise in pediatric cardiology.


Since his arrival at UCLA in 1987, one of his most impressive contributions was his success in strengthening the postdoctoral training program. The respect and gratitude of several dozen fellows attest to his success.


At UCLA, he also became the leader of a multi-institutional research program funded by a $9 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to study the effects on the heart and lungs of HIV transmitted from mother to infant. This work alone has contributed more than 30 scientific reports, has identified important heart and lung complications associated with HIV, and has identified appropriate treatment and follow-up for these infants and children.


Kaplan was the recipient of numerous honors and awards throughout his career including election to Alpha Omega Alpha, the medical honor society; the Susan and Theodore Cummings Humanitarian Award from the American College of Cardiology; the Cincinnati Pediatric Society Founder's Award; the American Academy of Pediatrics Founder's Award; and the Visionary Award from the American Heart Association. He served on the editorial boards of most major cardiology journals, and served as president of the California Society of Pediatric Cardiologists. The impact of Kaplan's career in pediatric cardiology will forever be felt within the framework of that clinical discipline. He was a revered figure in both pediatrics and pediatric cardiology.


"Sam Kaplan was an extraordinary, gentle leader, who gave so much of himself to his patients, students and colleagues. His artful and quiet approach to problem-solving was important to his success in all areas of his career," said Edward R.B. McCabe, executive chair of UCLA's department of pediatrics and physician-in-chief of UCLA's Mattel Children's Hospital. "He was a marvelous influence on all of us who were fortunate enough to know him."


He is survived by his wife, Molly; his brother, Solomon; his sister-in-law, Marie; and his nephew and wife, Tony and Louise McKenzie.


Thomas Klitzner