Announcement from Wolfgang H. Dillmann, MD, Helen M. Ranney Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Department of Medicine
It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Daniel T. O’Connor, MD, a longstanding and beloved member of the faculty of the UCSD School of Medicine. He passed away peacefully at his home on August 6, 2014.
Dr. O’Connor graduated from the UC Davis School of Medicine in 1974 and completed both residency and fellowship at UCSD. He joined the faculty in the Division of Nephrology-Hypertension in 1979, after a productive fellowship with Richard Stone, MD, that focused on the sympathetic nervous system in hypertension. Dr. O’Connor developed an early interest in the proteins that package neurotransmitters, particularly Chromogranin A. His work on this molecule led to numerous awards including election to the American Society for Clinical Investigation (ASCI), the Harry Goldblatt Award for cardiovascular Research, a UC Davis distinguished alumnus award, a UCSD Faculty Distinguished Lecturer Award, an Established Investigator of the American Heart Association award and presidency of the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET)/ Federation of Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB). His work with Chromogranin A led directly to a blood test for endocrine tumors that is still in use, particularly to diagnose pheochromocytoma. He discovered that catestatin, a proteolytic product of Chromogranin A, is an important regulator of blood pressure. Catestatin and congeners are currently in development for clinical use. Dr. O’Connor’s laboratory was funded by large research grants from the National Institutes of Health, including SCOR in Hypertension and Program Project Grants on the role of adrenergic activity in the regulation of blood pressure. He published well over 350 original articles in first-rate peer-reviewed journals. Dr. O’Connor’s research spanned basic biochemistry through clinical trials, giving his many trainees invaluable skills across the full spectrum of medical investigation. The fellows and junior faculty that Dr. O’Connor trained have succeeded in academic medicine, pharmacology, biotechnology, and nephrology. His approach to research was notable for openness, sharing and collaboration with other labs, and this infectious attitude is carried on by his trainees.
Not only was Dr. O’Connor a highly productive researcher at UCSD and internationally, but also a highly involved faculty citizen at UCSD. He was an excellent teacher involved in both basic science teaching of MDs and PhDs, and a popular and learned educator in the clinical arena. He was widely recognized as the consummate teacher and always had time to provide needed information to fellows and junior faculty members.
UCSD has grown justifiably proud of Dr. O’Connor’s achievements in clinical, translational and basic research on a national and international scale, particularly in the areas of adrenergic contributions to blood pressure regulation and the complex role of the genetics of hypertension. All who had the privilege of working with Dan O’Connor will greatly miss his infectious attitude that academic medicine and research are more fun than work.