Joseph J. Kaufman, M.D.
1921 - 1999
Professor of Urology, Emeritus
"Had he been a soldier, he would have been General.
Had he been a politician, he would have been Senator.
Had he been a nobleman, he would be have been King."
Joe Kaufman was the most distinguished urologist of his day. He was
a complex, multifaceted individual, who was a brilliant physician and
surgeon, a great teacher, and a personal inspiration to all who knew
him. In any room of people --operating room, lecture hall, athletic
field, or social gathering -- his presence was the dominant one. He
influenced the lives of thousands of patients, trainees, co-workers,
and students during a UCLA career which spanned nearly 40 years. During
those years, both UCLA and the specialty of urology changed from struggling
start-ups into important forces. No individual did more to lead these
transitions than Joe Kaufman.
Joe was effective because of his innate leadership abilities, and also
because he was a striking physical presence. Tall, dark, and handsome,
he had a booming voice and a commanding demeanor. He was an extremely
gifted communicator, clever and funny, both with the spoken and written
word. In his many areas of endeavor, he exuded a self-confidence, which
assured the best possible result. He was often called a "Renaissance
Man" because he was talented in many different fields.
As a urological surgeon, there was none better. In the operating room,
he combined technical skill, artistic creativity, imagination, and vision.
He was an early pioneer in the area of incontinence treatment. He built
at UCLA one of the world's great centers for study and treatment of
renovascular hypertension. Every operation was a work of art. His operations
were performed not only to cure a cancer or remove a prostate, they
were done as high theater with Joe as the leading man. He earned this
role by his technical expertise, which was the envy of all his peers.
A roomful of observers, often from all over the world, was his audience.
Locally, he was surgeon to the rich and famous. Nationally and internationally,
he was in constant demand to perform as visiting surgeon at the world's
most prestigious institutions.
As a caring clinician, there was none better. He was an inspiration
to patients. His presence at the bedside of a sick patient resulted
in immediate improvement. He made every effort to prolong life and ease
pain, but when there was no hope, he used merciful treatments judiciously.
As a teacher, there was none better. He taught on many levels, sometime
by example, sometime didactically. He was to all of his trainees the
complete physician, and two generations of his students strived to be
like him in every way possible. His lectures were always punctuated
by jokes, interesting anecdotes from his travels, and witty graphics.
His lessons became unforgettable experiences, resulting in inspired
study afterward, the students trying (usually in vain) to become as
learned as the professor.
As a leader of men, there was none better. People were attracted to
him; they listened to him; and they tried to be like him. Outside of
his professional life, he was an accomplished tennis player, a devout
open-ocean swimmer, a masterful pianist, and a painter of note. He knew
art; he knew literature; he knew foreign languages; and especially,
he knew music. He could walk into a bar and take over a piano, drawing
a crowd that would soon be applauding and singing along with him. In
any gathering, when he spoke, the room grew silent.
Joe was born in New Haven, CT and was especially close to his father,
who was a carpenter. He was a student at UCLA and at UC Berkeley, where
he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and Alpha Omega Alpha. He completed
surgical and urological training at Yale, at the Beth Israel Hospital
in Boston, at Mt. Sinai in New York, and at UCLA. He served with the
U.S. Army in the Pacific Theater during World War II. He practiced urology
in Los Angeles for eight years, before being recruited in 1960 back
to the full-time staff at UCLA by his mentor and lifelong friend, Professor
Willard Goodwin. Under Joe's chairmanship (1970 - 1984), the UCLA Urology
Department, which had been established by Dr. Goodwin, prospered and
became the finest such department in the world.
During his long and distinguished career, Joe received virtually every
honor which organized urology had to bestow. In addition, he trained
hundreds of young urologists, most of whom moved on to distinguished
careers of their own. Many are now training another generation at some
of the finest academic institutions. Joe will be long remembered by
his numerous students, friends and colleagues, who honored him in 1994
with a retirement gift, a piano, bearing the inscription, "Physician,
Teacher, Inspiration, Friend." His contributions have been memorialized
in the annual Joe Kaufman Lectureship at UCLA, established by his own
bequest in 1997.
Joe's latter years were marked by a decline in his health following
several strokes. He died on March 11, 1999 at the age of 78, while swimming
in the Pacific Ocean off Hawaii, his final home. His eyes never lost
their youthful sparkle, and he remained a handsome and commanding presence
to the end. He never stopped thinking about UCLA. And all who were lucky
enough to know Joe Kaufman, especially those of us who were trained
by him, were permanently etched by that good fortune.
LSM September, 1999