Raymond Hintz, founder of Stanford’s pediatric endocrinology division, dies at 75

Raymond Hintz was a pioneering researcher on human growth, and a clinician noted for his dedication to young patients.

- By Erin Digitale

Raymond Hintz

Raymond Hintz, MD, who founded the Division of Pediatric Endocrinology at the Stanford University School of Medicine, died Sept. 12 at his home on the Stanford campus after coping with the effects of a stroke he suffered nine years earlier. He was 75.

Hintz was recruited to Stanford in 1975 to establish a leading edge presence in pediatric endocrinology at the School of Medicine, and he spent the next three decades building the division, mentoring young physicians, providing thoughtful and compassionate care for patients and their families, and researching growth problems in children. He played a leading role in characterizing insulin-like growth factor 1 and other important growth signals.

“Ray was an incredible researcher, teacher and caring physician whose patients adored him and he they,” said Iris Litt, MD, professor emeritus of pediatrics, who worked with Hintz for decades. “He made extraordinary contributions to the whole field of pediatrics, which is, after all, all about growth.”

Another longtime colleague, David Stevenson, MD, professor of pediatrics, recalled, “We could call him any time to ask for help, and he would personally come and help manage complex endocrine problems in our patients. He was an incredibly generous and kind man.”

His daughter, Susan Hintz, MD, professor of neonatal and developmental medicine, said, “I felt very privileged to be able to work with him. As an academic physician myself, I had the great joy of being able to understand what an enormous impact he made in his field, and a chance to witness how dedicated he was to taking care of his patients.”

Hintz’s patients so appreciated his work that some now bring their own children for care to Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford.

“I see patients whose parents remember with fondness themselves being cared for by Dr. Hintz,” said Darrell Wilson, MD, the current chief of the Division of Pediatric Endocrinology and Diabetes, who began working with Hintz in 1979.

Ohio roots

Raymond Hintz was born Aug. 22, 1939, in Fremont, Ohio, and grew up nearby in the small town of Clyde. He began his undergraduate studies at the California Institute of Technology in 1957, but was homesick. Back in Clyde, his father asked Carol Fowler, one of Hintz’s childhood classmates, if she would write to him. Their correspondence slowly evolved into a more meaningful relationship. Hintz transferred to Ohio State University, from which he graduated summa cum laude in 1960. He married Fowler the following year. He earned a medical degree from Western Reserve University, which later became Case Western Reserve University, in 1964.

After his internship and residency, Hintz served for two years in the Air Force before moving to Chapel Hill, N.C., in 1970 for a pediatric endocrinology fellowship with Judson Van Wyk, a pioneer in the field. He then spent three years on the faculty of the University of Connecticut before coming to Stanford.

Hintz’s research on the endocrinology of growth was published in more than 350 scientific papers and recognized by numerous awards. He held leadership roles in scientific societies and on the editorial boards of endocrinology journals before retiring from Stanford in 2005.

His colleagues remember Hintz as an excellent teacher and collaborator.

“He was always a great mentor, helping to get his fellows and junior faculty on good projects,” Wilson said. “And he was very sociable. I remember with great fondness our group lunches.”

Problem with growth hormone

Hintz’s strong ties to patients were exemplified by an incident in the mid-1980s, when a former patient’s family contacted him. “They called the house directly and told my father there was something very wrong,” Susan Hintz recalled. The patient, a young man who had been treated with human pituitary-derived growth hormone during childhood, was suffering progressive ataxia, a neurologic problem characterized by jerky muscle movements. The symptoms rapidly progressed to include severe dementia, and led to his death within six months. An autopsy revealed that the patient had Creutzfeld-Jacob disease, an extremely rare neurologic disease. Raymond Hintz was the first to recognize the connection between this disease, transmitted by slow-growing prions in contaminated tissue extracts, and treatment with human-derived growth hormone. As more cases emerged, Hintz and others worked to get human-derived growth hormone removed from the market, which led to his being awarded a Commissioner’s Special Citation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1988.

A dedicated husband and father to his four children, Hintz also had broad interests outside of medicine, such as a love of the history of Winston Churchill and World War II. He was a trombonist and played in several Stanford-based musical productions including, Viennese balls, and loved to travel and read widely. “He instilled in all four of us a great thirst for learning,” Susan Hintz said. “He was really a loving and fantastic dad. That’s what I think about the most.”

In addition to Susan, Hintz is survived by his wife, Carol Hintz, of Stanford; daughters Lorac Lawton of Springfield, Va., and Jennifer Roberts of Seattle; son Gregory Hintz of San Francisco; and six grandchildren.

Memorial donations may be made to the Clyde Public Library, in Clyde, Ohio, where Hintz’s love of learning was sparked. 

About Stanford Medicine

Stanford Medicine is an integrated academic health system comprising the Stanford School of Medicine and adult and pediatric health care delivery systems. Together, they harness the full potential of biomedicine through collaborative research, education and clinical care for patients. For more information, please visit med.stanford.edu.

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