UNC Hematology Giant Harold R. Roberts, MD, Died September 9

Following is a message from Dr. Lisa Carey, chief of the division of hematology and oncology, and Dr. Nigel Key, director of the UNC Hemophilia and Thrombosis Center, on the passing of Dr. Harold Roberts. This will be updated as information becomes available.

UNC Hematology Giant Harold R. Roberts, MD, Died September 9 click to enlarge Dr. Harold R. Roberts

It is with great sadness that we inform you of the death of Harold Roberts, MD, formerly the Sarah Graham Keenan Professor of Medicine and Pathology and Laboratory Medicine.

A native of Sanford, NC, Dr. Roberts earned his undergraduate and medical degrees from UNC (the latter in 1951). He was appointed to the faculty in 1961. In 1967, he became Chief of the Division of Hematology, a position that he held for 10 years. For 20 years, he served as Director of the UNC Center for Thrombosis and Hemostasis, which he founded in 1978. As a young scientist, Dr. Roberts worked with Dr. Kenneth Brinkhous and UNC’s other legendary giants of blood coagulation research. In 1965, Roberts, Brinkhous, and their colleagues developed the first highly purified concentrate of blood clotting factor VIII, which was later commercialized by Baxter-Hyland. In 1987, a UNC patient with hemophilia A became the first person in the world to be infused with recombinant factor VIII. At the bench, Dr. Roberts and colleagues revised the generally accepted theory of the day by showing that the clotting mechanism is localized at the site of bleeding.

Dr. Roberts received numerous awards for his achievements in hematology research, including the French International Prize for Research in Hemophilia, the Kenneth Brinkhous Award for Excellence in Clinical Research from the National Hemophilia Foundation, the American Society of Hematology’s Henry M. Stratton Medal, and both the Distinguished Career Award for Contributions to Hemostasis and the Grant Medal from the International Society on Thrombosis and Haemostasis (ISTH). He was also the recipient of UNC Medical School’s Basic Science Teaching Award in 1965, and in 2000 he was presented the Medical Alumni Distinguished Faculty Award. In 2003, Dr. Roberts was selected as the Norma Berryhill Lecturer.

Dr. Roberts was a charter member of the ISTH in the late 1960’s, and in 1987, he became the first executive director of the Society, a position he held until 1999. The society, which has >4,000 members from more than 70 countries, is still headquartered in Carrboro. Since 2006, one recipient has been selected by the ISTH to receive the Harold R. Roberts Medal for contributions to the Scientific and Standardization Committees.

Dr. Roberts was known as an exceptional physician, and a perennial patient champion. He was a leader, mentor, counselor and scientific diplomat recognized internationally for his fairness, wisdom and devotion to the State and University of North Carolina.  His legacy and impact are unparalleled and we will miss him greatly.

We will forward information regarding a memorial service for Dr. Roberts, as well as any specific requests from the family regarding donations once that becomes available.

Lisa Carey and Nigel Key