Professor Emeritus Donald S. Young, MB, PhD (1933-2020)

July 08, 2020

Donald S. Young, MB, PhD, Professor Emeritus of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, an international authority in Clinical Chemistry and a "giant in the field," passed away July 4 at the age of 86.

Dr. Young was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and completed his Bachelor of Medicine at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland in 1957. In 1962 he was granted a PhD in Chemical Pathology from the University of London, following in his father's footsteps, who was then Chair of the Department of Pathology at the University of Edinburgh and later became Chair of the Department of Pathology at the University of Aberdeen.

Donald Young received a Leverhulme Fellowship of Royal Society of Medicine, Royal Postgraduate Medical School, London, and then trained as a Registrar (Resident) in Chemical Pathology at the Royal Postgraduate Medical School and as Honorary Registrar, Hammersmith Hospital, in London. His son, Robert, recalls that someone advised the young Donald that, if he wanted to go anywhere in academic medicine, he should depart for America. In 1965, he was appointed a Visiting Scientist in the Clinical Pathology Department at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, where he rose to become the Chief of the Clinical Chemistry Service.

From 1977 to 1984, Dr. Donald Young served as Head of the Section of Clinical Chemistry in the Department of Laboratory Medicine at the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota. He also served in countless capacities for professional organizations, including the Academy of Clinical Laboratory Physicians and Scientists and the American Association for Clinical Chemistry (AACC), of which he became President in 1980, and the International Federation of Clinical Chemistry, where he was President from 1985 to 1990. He was also a member of the Expert Advisory Panel on Health Laboratory Services for the World Health Organization. In 1984, Dr. Young moved to the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, where he presided over the Division of Laboratory Medicine and the William Pepper Laboratory until 2009, when he became Professor Emeritus. For 20 years, he served on the Board of Editors for the journal Clinical Chemistry, which he chaired from 1973 to 1978, and was the recipient of numerous awards, including the American Association for Clinical Chemistry Award for Outstanding Contributions to Clinical Chemistry, the National Institutes of Health Director's Award, the Presidential Award of the American Association for Clinical Chemistry, and the Luigi Mastroianni Clinical Innovator Award of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.

Starting in the 1970s, Dr. Young was a very early proponent of automation processes for clinical laboratories, such as robotics and automating time-consuming aspects for specimen sample handling like aliquoting, centrifugation, or load-balancing samples across different analyzers to minimize turnaround-time. Today, these automation processes are standard of care in clinical labs around the world, but this was not yet the case when the autolab at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania opened in 1997. At the time, the scale of such a project was unprecedented and quite bold in retrospect. During his tenure, he oversaw the advent of point-of-care testing as well. Donald Young's wide influence was also evident in the famed "Effects" book series -- the "Effects of Drugs on Clinical Laboratory Tests" he co-authored with J.M. Hicks, which described the effects of disease, drugs, and other pre-analytical variables on lab tests in many editions. In all, Dr. Young co-authored 27 books and more than 200 publications.   

His colleagues at Penn describe Don as a "tireless, dedicated" professional, who, while "committed to the highest standards," was a person of "stamina and patience" at the same time, "with an impressive reputation world-wide." He is remembered as "amiable, encouraging, and very supportive of the faculty and staff," as a "wise mentor," as well as a "generous and honorable gentleman."

External link: IFCC news tribute