Dr. Tsai-fan Yu (1911 - 2007)

mount sinai medical center
Mount Sinai Medical Center

Dr. Tsai-Fan Yu was born in Shanghai, China in 1911. When she was thirteen, her mother died, causing her father to work three jobs to send her to school. She attended Gin Ling College in China. As a sophomore, she was admitted into Peking Union Medical College with a full scholarship. Peking Union Medical College was the premier medical school in China and staffed with faculty from Johns Hopkins University. She graduated with highest honors in 1939 and became Chief Resident of Internal Medicine at Peking Union Medical College, an extraordinary achievement for a woman of her time. In China, she studied diseases in citrus fruits and bacterial blight affecting beans.

In 1947, Yu immigrated to New York City. She became a U.S. citizen in the 1950s. In New York, she worked at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. She joined the faculty of the Mount Sinai Medical Center in 1957, where she ended up spending the remainder of her career. In 1973, she became the first woman to be appointed a Full Professor at Mount Sinai. Yu retired with Professor Emeritus status in 1992 at the age of eighty-one.

Throughout her career, Yu conducted research and developed medicines that are still in use today. She worked with Dr. Alexander B. Gutman to establish a link between gout and elevated uric acid levels in the body. Yu helped test a drug, probenecid, which was proven to remove excess uric acid from the body. She and Gutman later conducted a five-year study on the anti-inflammatory medicine, colchicine. They determined that the medicine was useful in treating gout and in 1961 published their results in a widely cited paper in the Annals of Internal Medicine. Also in the 1960s, Yu was part of a study that evaluated the medicine allopurinol, which was also successful and is still used in treating gout and kidney stones today.

Yu served on the National Institutes of Health Advisory Board on Metabolic Diseases and received funding from them for twenty-six years. During her career, she was awarded the Distinguished Career Achievement Award from Mount Sinai Medical Center and the Master Award from the American Association of Rheumatology. More than 220 of her articles were published during her career.

Dr. Tsai-Fan Yu died on March 2, 2007 at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Manhattan. She experienced respiratory complications after a stroke. She was ninety-five years old.


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