Roy Maffly, award-winning professor and advocate for minority students, dies at 91

The former associate dean at the Stanford School of Medicine helped form a minority admissions council that increased the number of students from underrepresented groups.

- By Mandy Erickson

Roy Maffly

Roy Maffly, MD, former associate dean for student affairs at the Stanford University School of Medicine and a champion for recruiting underrepresented minorities to the school, died April 15 at his home in Palo Alto after a brief illness. He was 91. 

Maffly was remembered most for his teaching and mentoring of medical students and residents. In 1982, he was the first instructor at the School of Medicine to receive the Walter J. Gores Award, the university’s highest honor for excellence in teaching.

“He was a sensational dean and teacher to all the medical students,” said Judith Nevitt, MD, a former student and now an adjunct associate professor in ophthalmology. “You always knew you could go to Dr. Maffly with a question or a thought. He was always kind and compassionate, always free with his time.”

Maffly helped establish a minority admissions committee, which he chaired from 1973 to 1977 and which is credited with diversifying the school’s enrollment. He also proposed that the school allow flexible work schedules to accommodate students with children. 

“Not only was Roy Maffly valued and respected as a teacher and mentor, he was a much-needed proponent for equality,” said Lloyd Minor, MD, dean of the School of Medicine. “In the 1970s, Roy was instrumental in increasing admission of underrepresented minorities at the School of Medicine — understanding that better representation in medicine would help reduce disparities in health care.”  

Berkeley native

Maffly was born Nov. 26, 1927, in Berkeley, California, to a family with a long history in health care. His great-grandfather, Leroy Francis Herrick, also a physician, founded the former Herrick Memorial Hospital in Berkeley. 

Maffly earned a bachelor’s degree at UC-Berkeley in 1949 and a medical degree from UC-San Francisco in 1952. He met his future wife, Marilyn Miles, when she was a nursing student at UCSF, and the couple married in 1952. 

He completed residencies at UCSF and at Herrick Hospital, where he was chief resident. He then served in the U.S. Naval Reserve Medical Corps from 1955 to 1957. He also served in the U.S. Army in 1946, when he was drafted into active duty as an undergraduate.

He completed two research fellowships, one at Massachusetts General Hospital and another at UCSF. His research, which involved toad bladders and the passage of sodium and potassium through cell walls, informed the treatment of heart and kidney diseases. 

Maffly joined the Stanford faculty in 1961 as an assistant professor of medicine in endocrinology and metabolism. He was made a full professor in 1970 and became associate dean for student affairs in 1983. He retired in 1992. 

“He was very committed to social issues,” said his daughter Laurie Maffly-Kipp of St. Louis, Missouri. “He was influenced by the civil rights movement, and proud of his work on the minority commission. He tried to make underrepresented students feel more at home.”

In addition to the Gores award, Maffly won the school’s Award for Outstanding Teaching in 1971; the Kaiser Award for Excellence in Teaching in 1970, 1972 and 1977; and the Arthur L. Bloomfield Award for Excellence in the Teaching of Clinical Medicine in 1977. 

Rex Jamison, MD, professor emeritus of medicine, was a medical student when he first met Maffly and the two were working in a laboratory at Massachusetts General. At Stanford in 1971, the two co-founded the Division of Nephrology. At the time, nephrology was an emerging specialty. 

“Students just flocked to him,” Jamison said. “He was very kind, a truly remarkable human being. I don’t think he and I ever had an argument about anything.”

 After his retirement, Maffly studied history and music, a lifelong love, at Foothill College. Maffly-Kipp said he played many instruments: “He was always curious and loved to learn things,” she said. 

The family is planning a memorial service. 

In addition to Maffly-Kipp, he is survived by his wife, Marilyn Maffly; daughter Nancy Maffly of Davis, California; son-in-law Peter Maffly-Kipp; and grandsons Wesley, Joseph and David Maffly-Kipp. His son, Robert Maffly, died in 1983.

About Stanford Medicine

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