Louis E. Underwood, MD
Prof. Dr. Louis E. Underwood passed away peacefully 2 days ago after a prolonged illness. Dr. Underwood began his career in Pediatric Endocrinology in 1967 as one of the first fellows of Judson Van Wyk at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Department of Pediatrics, Division of Pediatric Endocrinology. He immediately joined the faculty in 1970 at the completion of his fellowship. For over 30 years, he formed the bed-rock of our division with its founder Judson Van Wyk. He served as Division Chief and Training Program Director between 1989 and 1998. He was a great clinician, researcher and mentor. Dr. Underwood authored over 165 publications including invited chapters, reviews, and editorials. He gave numerous special lectures and/or lectureships in at least ten countries in five continents, He was awarded major honors such as the 1993 Nutrition Award from the American Academy of Pediatrics and Doctor Medicinae Honoris Causa (Honorary Doctor of Medicine), Univ. of Restock, Germany, in 1994.
His primary research contributions are in both clinical medicine and basic science. He led the development of the first Insulin-like Growth Factor-I (IGF-1) assays, and demonstrated the clinical utility of IGF measurement in diagnosis and management of growth hormone (GH) deficiency and acromegaly. He defined the fundamental molecular mechanisms by which suboptimal nutrition leads to reduced IGF-1 expression and GH resistance. He elucidated the actions of IGF-1 when it is used as a therapeutic agent in humans and validated its use in children with GH Insensitivity Syndrome (GHIS) and disorders involving deletions of the GH gene. He made novel contributions to our understanding of endocrine disorders in children, including hypopituitarism, hyperinsulinism, Cushing’s disease, and more.
Dr. Underwood was the primary clinical mentor for all UNC Pediatric Endocrine trainees since 1970. Almost all of these physicians have gone on to academic careers involving clinical or basic research. His sage advice, mentoring and level-headed approach was essential to all their careers.
Dr. Underwood served major roles in multiple local, national and international groups. In addition to his faculty and division chief functions, he was very active here at UNC, serving on many important committees in the department and university-wide. He was president of Pediatric Endocrine Society in 1990-1991 (formerly known as Lawson Wilkins Pediatric Endocrine Society-LWPES), as well as serving terms on most LWPES committees. He also served as the Editor of Endocrine Reviews, and was on the editorial board of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. From 1998 until 2007, he wrote the PedEndoGram Newsletter, a pithy review of recently published clinical papers relevant to Pediatric Endocrinology. This newsletter is sent to about 2,500 physicians throughout the world twice a month.
Dr. Underwood was a member of a number of NIH study sections and served on NICHD’s Council, in addition to other roles. He also served as an advisor for a wide range of local and national agencies and institutions including: the North Carolina Department of Human Resources, the Human Growth Foundation, the National Pituitary Agency/National Hormone and Pituitary Program, the National Academy of Sciences, and the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA).
Beyond his professional accomplishments, we also remember him for his wisdom and for his kindness to his patients and colleagues.