Joseph Kirsner, pioneer physician, dies at age 102

July 7, 2012 - 2:43 PM

CHICAGO (AP) — Dr. Joseph Kirsner, a pioneer in the field of digestive system disorders, died from kidney failure at his home in Chicago on Saturday. He was 102 years old.

University of Chicago Medical Center spokesman John Easton said the well-known physician published more than 750 research papers and 18 books, and was the Louis Block Distinguished Service Professor of Medicine at the university.

Kirsner was among the first to show the increased risk of colon cancer in patients with ulcerative colitis. He broke new ground in the understanding and treatment of inflammatory bowel disease.

"Few if any physicians have had a broader and more positive impact than Joe Kirsner on thousands of patients, students and professional colleagues," Dr. Kenneth Polonsky of the university said in a statement. "His legacy at the University of Chicago will persist for generations. We are truly fortunate to have been able to call Joe a friend and colleague and a member of our faculty."

A Boston native, Kirsner arrived at the university in 1935 and helped change his field from an art — in his words, "speculative, impressionistic, anecdotal, almost mystical at times" — into a science.

He helped found the American Gastroenterological Association, the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy and the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases. The Crohn's and Colitis Foundation gave him their lifetime achievement award two times, in 1991 and 2002.

His respected textbook, "Inflammatory Bowel Disease," was published in six editions.

A memorial service is being planned for later in the summer.