In Memoriam: of Dr. Anthony “Tony” Sebastian, professor in our UCSF Health Division of Nephrology

Shared by Pat Sebastian on 18th October 2018

From: Wachter, Bob <>

Date: Wed, Oct 17, 2018 at 5:24 PM
Subject: In Memoriam: the death of Dr. Anthony “Tony” Sebastian, professor in our UCSF Health Division of Nephrology
To: All DOM Employees, All Sites <>
Cc: Humphreys, Michael, Gilman, Deborahann , Patricia Sebastian, Floyd Rector >, King, Talmadge , Lee Goldman 

Dear Colleagues:

We are writing with the sad news that Dr. Anthony “Tony” Sebastian passed away last Friday after a relatively brief stay in the ICU at Parnassus. He was 80 years old.

It is an understatement to say that Tony was one of the most remarkable members of our faculty. Despite battling progressive degenerative neurological disease for over 50 years – a disease that eventually resulted in him becoming quadriplegic, wheelchair-bound and ventilator-dependent – he remained a proud and active member of our academic community until the very end. In fact, he had multiple publications in the past few years, including a first-author paper published just this month! In it, Tony advanced the provocative hypothesis that our departure from prehistoric diets has led to deleterious health consequences.

For those who knew him, Tony was the very definition of indominable spirit and courage.

Tony obtained his undergraduate degree from UCLA and then completed all his medical training at UCSF, including a nephrology fellowship (1968-1972). Among his notable scientific accomplishments, he

•           determined the mechanisms for renal potassium wasting in types 1 and 2 renal tubular acidosis (work with Curtis Morris);

•           identified a new type of RTA (so-called type 4), its pathogenesis and treatment (work with Morrie Schambelan);

•           defined the role of mineralocorticoid hormones in potassium and acid-base metabolism (also with Morrie Schambelan);

•           proposed a renal chloride shunt in the pathogenesis of type 2 pseudohypoaldosteronism (with Floyd Rector and Morrie Schambelan).

His more recent work (with Curtis Morris and Lynda Frassetto) focused on the deleterious effects of net acid-producing diets on bone metabolism. In particular, this research pointed to the role that excess sodium and insufficient potassium intake may play in the pathogenesis of essential (and particularly salt-sensitive) hypertension.

Tony’s achievements were recognized by honors such as the Distinguished Clinical Research Lectureship at UCSF in 2005 (together with Curtis Morris). He and Curtis also received the American Society of Nephrology Belding Scribner Award in 2002.

Tony is survived by his wife of 54 years, Dr. Patricia Schoenfeld Sebastian, who was herself a member of the UCSF faculty, also in nephrology. Pat was based at San Francisco General Hospital, where she served as medical director of the UC Renal Center. We send Pat, and all of Tony’s family, our most heartfelt sympathy.

There will be a memorial service for Tony this Saturday (October 20) in Millberry Union, 500 Parnassus Avenue, from 12-4 pm. Tony’s family also asked that those interested in making a donation in his memory direct their support to the Patricia and Anthony Sebastian Scholarship Fund at UCSF. Go to, click on the blue box stating “Direct your gift to a specific area” and type in S8037, which will route your gift to the Class of 1965 Sebastian Scholarship.

A website including memories of and tributes to Tony can be found here.


Chi-yuan Hsu, MD, MSc

Chief, Division of Nephrology, UCSF Health

Robert M. Wachter, MD

Chair, Department of Medicine, UCSF

Written by Classmate Peter Singer, M.D. Will be Read by Leopold Avallone, M.D at Anthony's Memorial

Shared by Pat Sebastian on 18th October 2018

Tony Sebastian

Dear Pat, 

Margie joins me, on behalf of our class, in expressing our sincere condolences and deepest sympathy to you, Khoi, and actually, to all of us as well, the Class of ’65, since we’re part of Tony’s family.We all feel a deep sense of loss of our dear classmate and friend, Tony. It was Tony and Pat who held our class together for so many years; they initiated the tradition of our yearly get-togethers, a tradition we will carry on in Tony’s name. He would be really ticked if we didn’t continue to meet.

How does one describe Tony:caring; selfless; enthusiastic; inquisitive; generous; uncommonly humble; really, really smart. If we had to describe Tony in one word, it would be mensch; Tony was a real mensch.

Tony had a heck of an academic career, and was a real big shot in his field.He was a member of distinguished professional societies, including being elected to the American Society of Clinical Investigation while only in his 30’s.That’s a big deal. I’m pretty certain no one else in our class is a member, since our class was considered by the faculty to be………..well……….you know.

Among his many awards, Tony received the Belding Scribner Award from the American Society of Nephrology (that’s kidney, for you retirees who forgot everything from med school), the highest honor of that Society.That’s like the Academy Award for kidneys. Big stuff.

In addition, Tony published zillions of scientific articles, and continued to publish until now—yes, now!!I actually tried to read a few of them, and they seemed like a bunch of hocus-pocus.He used words I never heard of, like “transport mechanisms,’ or “chloride channels,”….whatever. Seemed like a lot of silliness. I guess the reviewers didn’t think so. When I asked Tony if all of those articles were really necessary, he smiled. Oh, classmates, how we loved to see Tony smile in recent years. He couldn’t move or breathe, but he could, and would, smile. And that sure would make us smile along with him. How we’ll miss that.

Tony received the UCSF Alumnus of the Year award about 15 years ago.In our minds who should have received it for every year.

Tony and I, along with Stu Davidson and The Falcon (Jerry Levenson) were roommates in our second year; we paid $35/each, and each of us had our own room. Tony studied constantly, and his ash tray was always filled with cigarette butts from unfiltered Pell Mells. The rest of us smoked filtered cigarettes. Unfiltered cigarettes! Tony was a stud!Going into his room was like walking through a smoke screen. I went into his room a lot, since I needed help so often; and Tony would interrupt whatever he was doing, and help me. He did that with everyone.He was so generous with his time. Always patient, and never, ever cross.

We played softball at Funston that 2nd year. We occasionally double-dated, until he met Pat, and then we didn’t see much of him after that. I think Pat was rooming with Willa, and then added Tony. They got married in 1964 ( I was privileged to be able to attend) and Pat has provided continual loving care and support of Tony for 54 years.

Sometime during our 2nd year Tony approached me and told me he liked the way I tied my necktie (yep, students wore ties in the early 60’s, and in the late 60’s brought their dogs to class), and asked me to tie his.That was the beginning, and you know the rest.

How did Tony manage all these years? It was Pat; and Khoi Nguyen (Lee, that’s pronounced “Win”) and other caregivers and physicians, including Tung Nguyen (“win” again) and Tony’s indefatigueable (is that a word?) determination and spirit. I’d like to think he also felt the love from all of us; I know he did, since it was obvious how much we loved Tony, and of course Pat.

I know Pat is grateful to our honorary classmate Khoi, and all of Tony’s other caregivers, as are we, the Class of ’65. Pat and Khoi, and to all of us, please accept our sincere condolences. See you in May, at our yearly reunion.


PS:I’m so sorry for not being here today. On the other hand, I don’t think I could have gotten thru this without stumbling (that means crying).

Shared by K N on 19th October 2018

On Monday, October 15, 2018 12:47 PM, Richard Haynes wrote:

Dear Peter and Classmates,

We all read Peter’s e-mail with much sadness. Tony and Pat’s leadership was so much enjoyed, appreciated welcomed by all of us. Tony’s Annual Luncheon’s have been a spectacular reuniting of our class. I can only say thank you.

As a classmate who has spent his entire carrier caring for individuals with unique orthopaedic problems including so many neurological problems, every time I saw Tony, I was in awe. Tony’s career as physician scientist was nothing short of spectacular. As a pragmatic Orthopaedic Surgeon, reading and understanding Tony’s papers was beyond my abilities! Living life as full as possible and continuing to contribute in a meaningful manner was Tony. I never left seeing him without feeling joyous enthusiasm.

Tony and Pat set the standard for all of us. I look forward to Celebrating his Legacy next Spring!

Dick Haynes

Shared by K N on 19th October 2018

On Monday, October 15, 2018 12:47 PM, Richard Haynes wrote:

Tony is my hero. Always upbeat, never complained, interesting and enthusiastic.His love of learning was a joy to observe. And what he accomplished was a miracle—especially with his very challenging health problems.

He truly was the spiritual leader of our class.


Shared by K N on 19th October 2018

On Sunday, October 14, 2018 11:28 AM, Lee Demott wrote:

I was very saddened to learn of Tony's death; I have happy memories of seeing him and talking with him at our reunion in 2000.I have always remembered what he said to me once-at a difficult time in my life when my father was dying of cancer-that it was easier to face your own death than to face the death of someone you loved.I am grateful for his life and for his courage and thinking of Pat and all of us who knew him.


Shared by K N on 19th October 2018

On Sun 10/14/2018 11:21 AM, Marcia Dillon wrote:

Dear All,

O’Neil and I are feeling profound sadness in hearing of Tony’s death; also great gratitude for having Tony in our lives and for epitomizing, along with Pat, what a beautiful, loving and fulfilling life can be amidst unbelievable hardships. All our love to Pat (will write separately to you Pat, out of town for few more days) and to Tony’s helper whose name escapes us just now. To all our classmates: live in the now, with love, and keep moving!).

Love, O’Neil and Marcia

Shared by K N on 19th October 2018

On Sunday, October 14, 2018 10:06 AM, Ed Helmer wrote:

We all knew this day would come, and I feel the collective sadness that our entire group is experiencing.

I was lucky to have known Tony while still in college, where, even then, his strength of purpose and his kindness were apparent.  Bonnie, my first wife, told me that, that during our first years in med school (when we were all "caught up in ourselves"), Tony would go out of his way whenever he saw her to talk at length with her, ask her what she was doing, and just made her feel that she was "one of the family".  To this day, she remains thankful to him for his kindness and caring.

Dave Janowsky, Esther's husband, also knew him in college - at at time when Tony was going through some personal problems (of which I had no idea at the time) and was having second-thoughts about even going on to medical school. Dave, probably using skills in understanding the human condition, even at that early stage of his life, helped  talk Tony through his difficulties and helped convince him into going on with his career.  So, not only do I thank God for allowing us the joy of having had Tony in our lives, but I also want to call out Dave for allowing me to be in his life as well.

With love,

Ed Helmer
Shared by K N on 19th October 2018

On Sun 10/14/2018 8:07 AM, Tom Dixon wrote:

I just now opened my email to discover that our “role model” has passed.I feel like I have been punched in the gut.What a horrendous loss for all of us, but especially for Pat.Both of them have been my heroes for many years.He will live on in my memory.May Tony rest in Peace and may you Pat be at Peace.

Tom Dixon

Shared by K N on 19th October 2018

On Saturday, October 13, 2018, 6:42:01 PM PDT, Leopold Avallone wrote:

When I opened Pete’s email and saw that Tony Sebastian died I was overcome with a profound sadness. I had the sense that one of the most influential individuals I had know has passed. Every time I saw and spoke with Tony I appreciated his courage in facing what the rest of us could only imagine. He and Pat accepted what life had to offer without complaint or anger and created an outstanding academic career receiving awards,  including “Best Teacher” one year from the medical students. In effect he embodied the values and attributes of a “great physician.”

Every year at the reunions I could see him getting weaker, requiring more from Pat and his aides. But he never let on that he was in pain or disturbed by his condition. He did what he had to do to be understood and participate. Every time I left the reunion I felt inspired by his bravery in carrying on. My problems paled next to his and he inspired me to accept life and do my very best. That is why I felt such a loss at news of his death.  He will be sorely missed.

Pat and Tony’s longstanding aide who was made an honorary Classmate last year will have a difficult adjustment in the coming days. They will be in our thoughts and prayers.

Lee Avallone
Shared by K N on 19th October 2018

On Oct 13, 2018, at 6:23 PM, Alain Traig wrote:

An extraordinarylife, lived by an extraordinary man, with the constant support of an extraordinary wife and a tireless aide.

"Now cracks a noble heart.Goodnight, sweet prince,

and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!"


Shared by K N on 19th October 2018

On Saturday, October 13, 2018 5:21 PM, Michael Gollub wrote:

Tony was a role model that none of us could equal.I am sure we all have memories of his friendship, help, and ability to make us feel happier and better.Medical school would have been a lot tougher had I not had Tony to turn to for assistance.The Kreb Cycle, the urinary flow and concentration in transit through the kidney, many other things were more understandable due to Tony's tireless help.He was an amazing man.



Shared by K N on 19th October 2018

On Saturday, October 13, 2018 3:40 PM. William Brostoff wrote:

Dear Classmates,

This is a great loss to our class, to UCSF, and especially to Pat. I will always remember his warmth and friendship when I used to see him during the years he was still on campus.

God bless Tony, and Pat, and all of us.


Shared by K N on 19th October 2018

On 10/13/2018 3:24 PM, Singer, Peter wrote:

Dear Classmates,

I just received a message from Pat that our dear classmate Tony passed away at 10 pm last night.According to Pat's note, he had been hospitalized for a few days.While this was not unexpected, given Tony's history, it's still a shock.Tony, along with Patty, was the glue that held our class together.He was the bravest and most up-beat person I knew.The fact that he was still scientifically productive until now was remarkable.I'll bet none of you every heard him complain.

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