A Message from the Chief

In Sam's untimely and tragic passing we lost a beloved colleague, mentor and friend, a wonderful human being, an incredible scientist. Humanity lost a giant who had so much more to contribute towards a better world. For so many of us, Sam was the reason we chose this field and the motivation to be at Stanford.

There are not enough words to describe the profound sense of loss.

“And yet, you try!”


- Dr. Andrei Iagaru

Chief, Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging


Please email: sarina08@stanford.edu to add your tribute

Like everyone else, I looked up to Sam. To me he was like a father figure.

I first learned about him while reading a book called “The End of Medicine” by Andy Kessler. At that time, I was frustrated with clinical medicine and about to follow a non-clinical career path. A chapter of this book dedicated to Sam’s research was fascinating to me… so I kept researching about him and his work. I eventually decided to return to clinical medicine, and because of him, I applied to a residency position at Stanford which I was lucky to fill.

During my residency training, one of the most exciting moments I continue to remember were my scheduled meetings with Sam in his office at the Clark Center. I loved to interact with him, listened to his wise advice, professionally and personally. Sam was the reason I later returned to Stanford. He was the reason of many of my life choices, ranging from how to allocate my research time to deciding to buy a house and which loan to get for this.

Sam made every event special with his presence, and because of this, I knew I wanted to be there.

- Guido Davidzon

It is with the deepest sorrow that we must say good bye to Sam. For some of us, his light, vision, and inspiration was the reason why we do what we love for a living, and his humanitarian side was an example to follow.  Sam defined brilliance. He truly devoted his life to make this a better world and advance modern science, yet it was heartbreaking to see how modern science failed to save his life.  We are lucky his legacy will always stay with us, and we will honor him, his family and his memory for years to come.

- Carina Mari Aparici

I cherish having known and worked with him. After listening to one of his lectures on Nuclear medicine, he made you excited to be able to work in the field. He brought passion and incredible knowledge to radiology. One of his strongest gifts was that he was an incredibly nice human being! He and Aruna suffered a terrible loss when Milan died and yet they were always concerned about the well fare of others. My heart goes out to Aruna. The radiology family is always here to support her.

- Nora Gurevich

We lost our friend, mentor, inspiration and a dearly loved one. It is a very sad day, having lost a loved one, a giant father. 

When I met Sam for the first time moving to Stanford during my interview, I was impressed by the vision, depth, as well as the intimate human-being who truly cared. I was convinced that I had to join his department as it was clear that there was so much one  could learn from him.

 It was not only scientific but about leadership and the big picture, mentorship. I was so lucky to have met him and hear him talk with his full voice and explain things and establish the clear logic in complexity that was seemingly so simple when he explained. 

I owe him and his vision lots of the work that is going on in my lab today. I owe him the broad understanding that I gained just watching him lead and inspire. He touched my life, and my family. 

He knew everything in depth. He understood clinic, technology, biology, translation, fund raising, venture capital, investing, business, leadership, mentorship, and everything else that I haven’t come across yet in my life.  Most importantly, Sam deeply cared about people which so often many leaders forget. 

In 100 years, I don’t expect to be around, but a better place will be this earth just because people like Sam lived on it. Till then, we will all together march steadfast on his footsteps. 

- Utkan Demirci

So much as already been said about Sam it is hard to know what to add. He is no longer here physically, but I think his contributions have only just begun. One of my favorite memories of him was when we celebrated his election to the National Academy of Sciences on the steps of the Lucas stairwell. He did not focus on his amazing work, what he had done, or what he planned to do. Instead, he said to view our trainees and colleagues as candles, and to light them so they could spread the work of improving the health of our fellow humans. He has lit many many candles, and in so doing, his work will continue well on into the future. Especially if we all light our own candles.

We will all miss you Sam, but we will never be without you.

- Sandy Napel

Thomas and I are sad and heartbroken about the passing of Sam Gambhir. Sam was a remarkable leader and mentor, who had a profound impact on all of us.

I came to Stanford because I wanted to work with Sam. I was inspired by his brilliant intellect, his exceptional creativity and his amazing molecular imaging research program. When I received my offer letter, I did not ask for more money, but for guaranteed mentorship by Sam. In the following years, I learned a lot from Sam about research, strategy and his vision about a better world, where cancer would never make anybody sick, but rather be detected and eliminated before any clinical manifestation.

I am grateful for the many insightful discussions and the many important lessons I learned from Sam. I got to know him as a brilliant, thoughtful and considerate human being. But what Thomas and I remember most is Sam’s compassion in difficult times: When Thomas had a surgery a few years ago, Sam sent him a “get well” basket. Thomas is not a Stanford employee. Which chair notices if their employees’ spouse is ill? We were truly touched by his kindness. 

Thomas and I are deeply sorry for the pain and sorrow that Sam and his family had to go through. Nobody should have to experience the pain that he had to suffer. Our deepest sympathy goes out to Sam’s wife Aruna and his extended family.

Sam loved physics. Therefore, let me close with the fundamental law of conserving energy, which states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed, it can only be transformed from one form to another. So, the science is sound. Sam transcended to another dimension and his spirit will live on in everyone of us.

- Heike Daldrup-Link and Thomas Link

Dr. Gambhir was a kind, compassionate man, a good listener and a brilliant scientist. He put humanity on the face of precision medicine, always remembering that on the other side of research was the motivation to do research in the first place: to help people and reduce suffering. I will always remember his kind smile, his wry sense of humor and the time he took to listen to people. Our hearts go out to Aruna and the Gambhir family. We have lost a star in our sky, but in our own future work we can keep his star shining in our hearts.

- Debra Ikeda

I am deeply saddened by this news. Sam had an extraordinary vision, matched with great kindness. I will remember him as a very thoughtful person, ready to listen and advise with caring and compassion. We have lost a great man, but his legacy will live on in so many ways.

My thoughts and prayers go out to Aruna and the family. 

- Sunita Pal

Sam was a great mentor, visionary leader, excellent colleague and kind friend. I mourn his passing and miss him deeply.  

Besides being my postdoctoral advisor at Stanford, Sam was my PhD brother.  I want to share an email message and photo sent to me by our primary PhD advisor at UCLA, Dr. Sung-Cheng (Henry) Huang.  They are both shown below.  My thoughts and prayers are with Aruna and the entire Gambhir/Bodapati family during this difficult time.

- Mirwais Wardak

Words seem inadequate to express my sadness on hearing the news. Sam had a tremendous influence on my career and life and I will always remember him as a very thoughtful, caring person and a great human being.

- Negin Hatami

He was the most inspiring mentor as well as academic father to us and, ultimately, the main reason why many of us are here. I hope that we can all honor his legacy by fulfilling his mission, but also keeping Stanford Radiology as the tight knit family that he created and valued so much.

- Amelie Lutz

This is a very hard thing to learn at a time when we cannot gather together to support each other.  I do not have words right now that adequately express how sad I am that Sam is gone.  He was such a very kind man, and made such a positive impact on all of our lives in so may ways.  I will forever miss running into him with in the halls and walkways of Stanford Radiology.  Please post as early as you learn how we can support  Aruna, and family and I pray we will be able to come together to honor all that Sam means to each of us.

- Jean Sullivan

What a wonderful and inspiring visionary and true friend. 

Please let us all know how we might help Aruna in any way, and what we can do to assist the Department. 

-  Vol Van Dalsem

Dear Stanford friends and colleagues,

All of us at Kaiser Permanente would like to extend our sincere condolences upon the passing of Dr. Gambhir.

Sam’s departure from this world is a tremendous loss to the nuclear medicine community and to humanity in the broader context. Through his visionary leadership and work, Sam positively influenced so many lives. His legacy will live on through the many physicians and scientists that he helped to train and mentor throughout his career.

Many of us in the Bay Area were trained (either directly or indirectly) by Sam and have fond memories of our interactions with him. We, of course, remember his brilliance and genius. But we will also remember his gentle and approachable demeanor, his unending availability and willingness to teach and mentor, and his forward-thinking nature when it came to science. We remember Sam as being a man who put others first and was eager to invest in the development of trainees. We remember his many pearls of knowledge which remain in the forefront of our minds, not the least of which was, “Remember always to treat every patient as if they were your own family member." We also remember the warmth and grace of his hospitality when invited to visit his family’s beautiful home in Portola Valley.

We owe Dr. Gambhir a debt of gratitude for all that he has done to bring our profession to the forefront of modern medical practice. He will remain an inspiration to so many of us, and he will be greatly missed by all.

With deepest sympathy,

The TPMG Nuclear Medicine team

We mourn the death of a noted scientist and physician Dr. Sanjiv Sam Gambhir, MD, PhD, Professor and Chair of the Department of Radiology at Stanford University School of Medicine. Sam passed away on Saturday morning July 18, 2020 from cancer. He was 57 years old. Gambhir was the Virginia and D.K. Ludwig Professor in Cancer Research and Director of the Molecular Imaging Program at Stanford (MIPS) and Canary Center, and, had international recognition as a pioneer of molecular imaging.

Sam was known for his pioneering work in molecular imaging and nuclear medicine
PET-CT and early cancer detection. He authored 680 peer reviewed articles and had filed for more than 40 patents. In addition, he was founder or co-founder of several biotechnology companies and served on the scientific advisory board of multiple institutions, including the NCI’s Board of Scientific Advisors and most recently on the NCI’s Early Detection Research Network’s Networking Consulting Team.

Sam had received numerous honors and grant awards from NCI and was a member of the early detection research network, EDRN (2010-2015). He was well known to several staff in DCP’s Cancer Biomarker Research Group. Sam will always be known for his creativity, fellowship and collegiality. He was a visionaryand will be sorely missed by those who knew him and his research. Just two day before his death, he received Sandford’s highest honor, the Dean’s Medal for Scientific, Medical and Humanitarian Causes which he could not attend due to his health.

Sam had to deal with another personal tragedy several years ago when he and his wife Aruna fought for the life of their son Milan, who passed away in 2015 at the age of sixteen. Sam understood the fragility of human health and worked every day to apply his genius to research focused on diagnosing disease in its earliest and most treatable stages.

Our heartfelt condolence to his wife, Aruna as well as all of his family and colleagues for such an immense loss. Sam was a giant in multiple areas of precision medicine and championed the cause of imaging research in cancer treatment and early detection.

- NCI’s Pancreatic Cancer Detection Consortium

Gifts in Memory of Dr. Sam Gambhir

Gifts in Memory of Dr. Sam Gambhir

Thank you for your interest in making a gift to honor and remember Sanjiv Sam Gambhir, MD, PhD. The information below will provide you with a few details and options.

In lieu of flowers, the Gambhir family prefers donations to one of the areas listed below. The first three programs are at Stanford Medicine.

  • The Canary Center for Cancer Early Detection at Stanford (https://canarycenter.stanford.edu/)
    The Canary Center at Stanford’s mission is to discover and implement minimally invasive diagnostic and imaging strategies for the detection and prognostication of cancers at early, curable stages. The Canary Center is the first in the world to integrate research on both in vivo and in vitro diagnostics to deliver these tests, by housing state-of-the-art facilities and collaborative research programs in molecular imaging, proteomics, chemistry, cell and molecular biology and bioinformatics.

  • The PHIND Center at Stanford (https://med.stanford.edu/phind.html)
    The Precision Health and Integrated Diagnostics Center (PHIND) at Stanford is dedicated to longitudinal monitoring and improvement of overall human health on a lifelong basis. Currently, the field of healthcare is primarily focused on late-stage disease including treatments applied relatively late with suboptimal health outcomes. However, continued Stanford advancements in biology and technology are leading to the potential to understand disease risk, detect disease early and enable preventative interventions. This center aims to fundamentally revolutionize healthcare leading to better and more productive lives for individuals. 

  • The Sanjiv Sam Gambhir Professorship in Translational Medicine at Stanford
    This is a permanent endowed professorship at the School of Medicine established in honor of Dr. Gambhir to support a faculty member conducting translational research in the Department of Radiology.

  • The Ben and Catherine Ivy Foundation (http://ivyfoundation.org/)
    This is a separate non-profit that has the long-term goal to cure brain cancer. To donate online, go to the website and scroll down until you see the word DONATE. Click on the box and follow the instructions.

How to Make a Gift to Stanford

To donate online to any of the first three areas listed above: Please go to Stanford’s medical giving website here (or https://medicalgiving.stanford.edu/) and click Make A Gift. Complete the online giving form, specifying where you want to designate your gift and that your gift is in memory of Dr. Sam Gambhir.

To donate by check: Please make your check payable to “Stanford University.” Include a note specifying where you want to designate your gift and that it is in memory of Dr. Sam Gambhir. Be sure to mention whether you would like us to send Dr. Gambhir’s family a notification letter. Stanford will not share the amount of the donation. Mail your gift to:

     Stanford University
     Development Services
     P.O. Box 20466
     Stanford, CA 94309-0466

To donate stock or give by wire transfer: If you wish to contribute stock or make a gift via wire transfer, please click here for instructions.

For questions, or if you would like to discuss your gift with a member of the development team, please contact Erik Rausch at erausch@stanford.edu or Susan Schwartzwald at susanss@stanford.edu in the office of Medical Center Development.


In Loving Memory of Aruna Gambhir, MS, MBA

Message from Stanford Radiology

We are deeply saddened to share that Aruna Bodapati Gambhir passed away at the age of 61 years on Wednesday, November 29, 2023 after a long battle with breast cancer. Aruna was the wife of our late chair, Dr. Sanjiv (Sam) Gambhir, and a passionate advocate for their shared vision for early cancer detection and precision medicine.

Though most of us in the Department knew her primarily through Sam, Aruna was a powerhouse in her own right. She was known for her business acumen, practical and operational insights, ability to connect with people, and a wry sense of humor. Aruna received her BA in Biochemistry at UC Berkeley, a master’s degree in computer science at Santa Clara University, and an MBA from UCLA. She had a successful career in software development and executive leadership, including in her role as CEO of Cellsight, a company focused on commercializing PET imaging tracers to visualize the immune status of patients. She also served as a special advisor to Earli, a company focused on researching cancer biomarkers, again furthering the goals of early disease detection and earlier treatment for better outcomes.

Aruna was a major supporter of the Stanford Department of Radiology, especially in furthering Sam’s work after his passing. Her steadfast focus helped to bring to fruition the new cyclotron at the Stanford radiochemistry facility at 1701 Page Mill Drive. This state-of-the-art facility will provide greater access to existing and novel isotopes, supporting many new research grants and programs that have not been previously possible. Aruna also served on the advisory board of the Stanford Radiology Precision Health and Integrated Diagnostics (PHIND) Center, advancing the field of precision health.

Aruna inherited a rare genetic condition, Li-Fraumeni syndrome, that dramatically increases the risks of many types of cancer. She previously battled breast cancer twice before her more recent illness. It was the same syndrome that her son Milan Gambhir inherited, who passed away from glioblastoma multiforme in 2015.

Aruna was a boundless supporter, partner, and spouse to Sam; she was a gracious host welcoming faculty, staff, trainees, and friends alike into the Stanford family. She was a devoted and loving mother to Milan and fierce in her quest to find a cure to save him. She was always generous with her time and kind to friends and strangers alike, even during the dark times of Milan’s and Sam’s passing. Despite her personal losses, Aruna remained intensely focused on supporting the research that would prevent others in the future from having to experience the painful losses she and her family endured.

Our deepest sympathies and prayers remain with the Gambhir and Bodapati family during this difficult time. Aruna’s passing is a great loss that will be felt widely.

Details regarding plans for memorial services will be forthcoming. Those wishing to offer condolences to the family may do so by completing the form below.

Garry Gold, MD, Chair
David Larson, MD, MBA, Executive Vice Chair
Yun-Ting Yeh, MBA, Director of Finance and Administration


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Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging at Stanford: The Sanjiv Sam Gambhir Years (2003-2020)

In Loving Memory of Bin Shen, PhD

It is with the greatest of sorrow that we share with you that our dear friend and colleague, Dr. Bin Shen, Director of the Cyclotron and Radiochemistry Facility (CRF) at Stanford, has passed away.