USC can­cer ex­pert, med­i­cal school dean

Los Angeles Times - - OBITUARIES - By Jason Song jason.song@latimes.com

Brian E. Hen­der­son, a can­cer re­searcher and for­mer dean of USC’s Keck School of Medicine, died ear­lier this month at his home in San Marino. He was 77.

Hen­der­son died June 20 af­ter a bat­tle with lung can­cer, school of­fi­cials said.

Hen­der­son served as the dean be­tween 2004 and 2007 and worked at USC for nearly 45 years. He was awarded the school’s high­est honor, the Pres­i­den­tial Medal­lion, in 1999.

“His many con­tri­bu­tions to medicine, re­search, and our com­mu­nity ... were both far- reach­ing and ex­tra­or­di­nary. He built an ex­cep­tional legacy at USC, and in the f ield of medicine,” USC Pres­i­dent C. L. Max Nikias said in a state­ment.

Hen­der­son was born in San Fran­cisco on June 27, 1937, and ma­jored in English when at­tend­ing UC Berke­ley, where he did bet­ter in his science classes than his literature cour­ses, said his daugh­ter Maire Hen­der­son Mul­laly.

He re­ceived his med­i­cal de­gree from the Univer­sity of Chicago and spe­cial­ized in in­fec­tious dis­eases, trav­el­ing to Africa to study yel­low fever and the Soviet Union to con­duct re­search on hem­or­rhagic fever. He was work­ing at the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Preven­tion in At­lanta when Pres­i­dent Richard Nixon de­clared a war on can­cer in 1971 and took a job at USC to study the dis­ease.

The Berke­ley alum had trou­ble ad­just­ing to some as­pects of Tro­jan life. “We had a hard time the first few years when the Bears came to town,” said his wife, Ju­dith. “But it would be fair to say that USC won out in the end.”

Ju­dith noted that her hus­band’s allegiances only shifted in col­lege football and he re­mained a die- hard San Fran­cisco Giants fan his en­tire life.

At USC, Hen­der­son be­came an au­thor­ity in in­ves­ti­gat­ing rates and pat­terns of can­cer cases to seek fac­tors that might in­crease the risk for the dis­ease, in­clud­ing study­ing the role of re­pro­duc­tive hor­mones in breast can­cer.

“We need ra­tio­nal public ed­u­ca­tion of the real is­sues in can­cer,” he wrote in a 1998 op- ed piece in The Times.

He was named the dean of USC med­i­cal school af­ter then- school Pres­i­dent Steven Sam­ple asked him to take on the role. “He would al­ways rather be head­ing his sci­en­tific team, but he wanted the best for the school,” his wife said.

Af­ter step­ping down as dean, Hen­der­son con­tin­ued his re­search and teach­ing. “Men­tor­ing stu­dents is some­thing I just love,” he said in a USC news story.

Hen­der­son was shocked when he was di­ag­nosed with lung can­cer more than a year ago, es­pe­cially be­cause he knew it would be hard to treat, his daugh­ter said. But he still con­tin­ued to go to work un­til a month be­fore his death.

“He en­joyed the science,” she said.

In ad­di­tion to his wife and daugh­ter Maire, Hen­der­son is sur­vived by a younger sis­ter, Mar­jorie Hitzl; chil­dren Sean O’Brien Hen­der­son, Sarah Cath­leen Hen­der­son, Brian John Hen­der­son, Michael Cle­ment Hen­der­son; and 11 grand­chil­dren.

Van Ur­falian USC

HIGH HON­ORS Brian E. Hen­der­son was

awarded USC’s Pres­i­den­tial Medal­lion in 1999.

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