Dr. Jack Geller, renowned physician, athlete, Renaissance man, passed away January 6, 2011, in his La Jolla home surrounded by family, three days short of his 86th birthday. The cause was non-Hodgkins Lymphoma aggravated by recent radiation treatments.
The son of the late Dr. Max and Ida Geller, Jack was born 1925, in New Rochelle, New York. Jack, at the age of nine, lost his right thumb and part of his index finger in a school accident. With the encouragement of his parents, he then learned how to play tennis with his left hand, doggedly hitting thousands of balls against his garage door.
That resolve to succeed, which would form him throughout his life, helped him deal with his injury. Within a few years he became Number 5 in the boys' division, led the Yale tennis team and eventually ranked Number 30 in the country before the days of pro tennis. He loved competing at Forest Hills in the Nationals in the days when amateur athletics could be managed by a busy young doctor. He always remembered playing Pancho Gonzalez in the stadium. Jack was known for his two forehands, instead of a backhand.
After graduation from Scarborough School, Dr. Geller entered Yale University. World War II called him and following service on troop ships as a First Lieutenant in the Army Transportation Corps in the North Atlantic, he returned to Yale, eventually receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree with honors in 1948. During that time he met and married young Suzanne Rita Brenner, who then was attending Connecticut College for Women.
In 1948, Dr. Geller began his medical studies at New York University finishing in 1952, again with honors. Residency and internship requirements were completed at Bellevue Hospital in New York followed by a fellowship in endocrinology at Mt. Sinai Hospital.
In 1957, he was selected to be the Moritz Rosenthal Fellow in Endocrinology. Simultaneously, he started his academic medical career at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York where he advanced to Associate Professor of Medicine and Director of the Hormone Assay Laboratory.
Within that time frame he and his wife built a small contemporary home in Purchase, N.Y. then moved to Armonk, and finally to Chappaqua, New York, where they lived for ten years in a two-hundred-year-old farmhouse and raised three children: Jon Geller, now a veterinarian in Fort Collins, Colorado; Jamie Brenner Geller who passed away at age 40, and Jacqueline Sue Geller Newman who followed in her father's footsteps to Yale and the tennis team.
In 1970, Dr. Geller moved to southern California to assume the position of Director of the Internal Medicine Training Program at Mercy Hospital and Medical Center and Adjunct Professor of Medicine at the University of California School of Medicine, San Diego. He held these combined positions for 23 years. Following retirement, he continued Endocrinology consulting at Kaiser Permanente.
His was a life of exemplary service to the voices that called him. To his many patients, Dr. Geller provided skilled and compassionate medical care. To his colleagues, he was a brilliant consultant in the fields of internal medicine and endocrinology. To the more than 500 house officers he trained over the past 23 years, he provided superior teaching and enduring leadership while epitomizing the quintessential role model and humanist.
To his wife and family, he was a devoted husband and deeply caring father, always one to listen, to guide, to be there when needed. To the medical literature, Dr. Geller contributed 108 original publications and 79 abstracts. In 1978, he originated the now well-known concept of panandrogen (adrenal and gonadal) blockage in the treatment of benign and malignant disease of the prostate. To the American College of Physicians, he contributed 20 years of service and was awarded the coveted and rarely bestowed Mastership.
In athletics, he made his stellar mark in tennis until in the mid-1980's, when osteoarthritis of the knees forced him to take up golf, which escaped the expertise of his tennis game. As a human being, he was simply an inspiration exuding warmth, enthusiasm, honesty, generosity, an ability to overcome obstacles, and humility despite his major accomplishments.
The passing of Jack Geller heralds the loss of a prince, a man blessed with brains and brawn and wisdom, handsome and courtly, one who dedicated his life to making the world a better place, who loved to argue, read, and intellectually explore. His life was one of duty, service, love of wife and family, a philosopher-physician at heart the campus king who, no matter his professional accomplishments, loved his N.Y.Times, to eat well, and to talk politics with friends. He greatly enjoyed traveling the world with his family, where his boating misadventures became legendary. On the ski slope, he would windmill his way to the bottom, with the enthusiasm of Don Quixote.
He did not, as the poet tells us, "go gently into that good night." He went fighting the good fight, reminding us in the words of Amelia Earhardt describing her glorious adventures the sky: "Everyone has reason to fly so long as they have the heart to do it." To his end, Jack Geller had the heart, a heart of immense proportions.
He leaves behind his wife of 64 years, Suzanne Geller, his children Jon Geller and Jacqueline Geller Newman; four grandchildren, Alexandra and Josey Geller of Boulder, Colorado; Josh and Jamee Newman of La Jolla, California; three sisters, Genevieve Wyner of Boston and Martha's Vineyard; Harriet Greenfield of Danbury, Connecticut; and Marjorie Levitan of Whalen, Massachusetts.
A Memorial Celebration of Dr. Geller's life will be held in the West Auditorium (lower level) at Mercy Hospital, Fifth Avenue, San Diego, at 5 p.m., Wednesday, January 12, 2011.
Donations in his honor may be made to the Cancer Center and Department of Medical Education at the Mercy Hospital Foundation, Mercy Hospital, 4077 Fifth Av. MER 42, San Diego, CA 92103.
Paid death notice published in the San Diego Union-Tribune Tuesday on 11 Jan 2011
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