Professor Alvin Dubin, 1914 - 1991

Alvin Dubin, M.S., FACB, who passed away January 10, 1991, was one of the Academyís founders, its eighth President, and the Director of the Hektoen Institute in Chicago. The following biography was adapted from an obituary written by Anatoly Bezkorovainy, J.D., Ph.D., FACB, for the program book of the July 1991 NACB Annual Meeting. That meeting also marked the awarding of the First Annual Professor Alvin Dubin Award by the Academy, an award presented each year to a member of the Academy for contributions to the field of clinical biochemistry. The first recipient was Laurence Demers, Ph.D., FACB, who succeeded Al Dubin as Academy President.

Alvin Dubin grew up and was educated in Brooklyn, New York. After graduating from Brooklyn College in 1942, he was employed by the Beth-El Hospital in Brooklyn. In 1947 he moved to Chicago to take the position of Director of Biochemistry at Cook County Hospital and the Hektoen Institute. He remained in those positions until 1969, when he assumed the responsibility at Hektoen Institute on a full time basis. He became Director of the Institute in 1989. Al held academic appointments first at the University of Illinois (1960-1970), then at Rush University as Professor of Biochemistry. He taught both medical and graduate students, and served on numerous departmental and institutional committees. He gave freely of his time to those educational endeavors without any compensation whatever, since he was keenly interested in passing on his knowledge and his experience to future generations of physicians and biomedical scientists. He was also actively involved in providing research exposure to minority college students, many of whom eventually entered either medical or graduate schools.

Professor Dubinís contributions to clinical biochemistry research were numerous and varied. He had over 100 research papers and book chapters to his credit. He was the recipient of the AMA Hektoen Gold Medal (1965), the Chicago Clinical Chemist Award (1976), and the AACC Award for Outstanding Contributions to Clinical Chemistry (1985). In his research endeavors, he was a team player. He collaborated with other basic scientists and especially with clinicians. Because of the latter, his research had far-reaching implications in our understanding of the mechanisms of many diseases. He was especially proud of the work of his graduate student, Dr. Robert Williams, who, under Alís guidance, was able to isolate xanthopterin from the blood of patients with chronic renal failure.

In the area of services to his profession, Professor Dubin participated in the evaluation of new medical devices by the FDA and took an active role in the affairs of the National Academy of Clinical Biochemistry. In fact, he was one of the co-founders of the Academy and served as its eighth President in 1983-84. He served on the NACBís Board of Directors from 1977 through 1985 and served on many committees including the Nominating Committee (Chair three different years), Membership Committee (Chair), Committee on Scientific and Professional Affairs (Chair), Awards Committee, Finance Committee, and the Fund Raising Committee. In many ways, Al was the Academyís conscience.

Two points come to mind when one attempts to summarize Professor Dubinís philosophy on the practice of clinical biochemistry. First, he strongly advocated research on the mechanisms of disease as an integral component of a clinical biochemistís professional life. He emphasized mechanisms of disease, not methodology development. The latter, he used to say, is what the commercial instrument developers now do, and this they can do so much better than a hospital or academic-based clinical biochemist. Many physicians, especially those in the academe, are interested in research, yet they are not trained in the research ethic and need help from the basic scientist. The clinical biochemist, who is also interested in the disease process, is an ideal collaborator for such clinicians. On the practical level, cooperation with clinicians in the research arena makes the clinical biochemist visible and indispensable in the hospital setting.

The second aspect of the practice of clinical biochemistry that Al liked to advocate is the advisability, nay the necessity, of learning clinical medicine by the clinical biochemist. He or she should attend grand rounds and be able to defend laboratory results, as well as contribute to the clinical discussion of cases on hand. There was nothing worse, in Alís opinion, than the following statement often made by the clinical biochemist: ďI do the analyses, and the doctor interprets the results.Ē The clinical biochemist, in Alís opinion, should be able to interpret the results for the physician. Otherwise, why have a clinical biochemist on board? Today, machines do the analyses, and one doesnít need a Ph.D. to run them. In other words, the clinical biochemist should be able to talk to the doctor in the doctorís own language.

To many biomedical scientists, Professor Dubin was an inspiration to strive for the best, to look at things scientific from the broadest possible point of view, and to do what is right in our scientific and interpersonal dealings no matter the cost. Many of those in the Academy and in the field of clinical biochemistry, over the years, came to depend on Alís help and wise counsel.