Bruce Tune, MD (2011)

Bruce Tune, MD, who founded the Division of Pediatric Nephrology at the Stanford University School of Medicine, died June 25 at his home in Palo Alto of complications of Parkinson’s disease. He was 71.

Tune arrived at Stanford as an undergraduate and stayed nearly his entire career, playing many leadership roles at the School of Medicine. Between 1991 and 1993, he was acting chair of the Department of Pediatrics. In the early 1990s, Tune was instrumental in launching the pediatric kidney transplant program at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, which is now among the most successful organ transplant programs in the world. He was known for compassion and dedication to his patients, gravely ill children suffering from a wide variety of kidney diseases.

“He was the epitome of a true bedside doctor,” said Oscar Salvatierra, MD, the surgeon Tune helped recruit to Packard Children’s to start the kidney transplant program. “He would spend whatever time was necessary with a patient, and especially with patients’ parents, to make sure they were well-informed. He endeared himself to the families because, in tough situations, he was there for them.”

Tune single-handedly ran the Division of Pediatric Nephrology for many years, recalled Packard Children’s neonatologist Philip Sunshine, MD, who knew Tune well. “He took care of all those kids himself,” Sunshine said. When Tune was himself hospitalized for a serious respiratory infection in the 1970s, he ran the division from his hospital bed while he recovered, Sunshine said.

Tune was born Aug. 26, 1939, in New York City. His family moved to Los Angeles when he was a small child. Tune came to Palo Alto to attend Stanford, earning his bachelor’s degree and then graduating from the School of Medicine in 1965. After an internship at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, N.Y., and a residency in pediatrics at Stanford, Tune moved to Washington, D.C. in 1967 to work at the National Institutes of Health. There he met Nancy Doolittle, who soon became his wife. After their marriage in 1969, the couple returned to California so that Tune could assume the position of chief resident in pediatrics at Stanford. A faculty appointment soon followed.

As a faculty member at the School of Medicine, Tune was known for his teaching skills. Tune’s departmental colleagues honored him for several years with the Bruce Tune Award, established in the 1970s for the house officer who had made the best diagnosis during the previous year.

In addition to his enthusiasm for clinical care, Tune enjoyed the scientific discovery process. “I knew Bruce as an astoundingly bright scientific physician, one who could get to the central aspect of both science and disease with a few insightful questions and observations,” said his longtime colleague and close friend Irving Weissman, MD, professor of pathology and of developmental biology.

Away from his job, Tune enjoyed spending time with his family, including daughter Sara, now of Toronto, and son Steve, now of Portland, Ore. Tune was a skilled photographer; he enjoyed music, and he and Nancy grew prize-winning roses at their Palo Alto home.

“I first met Bruce when he recruited me to come to Stanford in 1997,” said Steve Alexander, MD, Stanford’s current Pediatric Nephrology Division Chief. “By that time he had been ill with Parkinson’s for almost a decade, and the disease had begun to take its toll.” Despite declining health, Tune continued to see patients in clinic every week and participated in conferences and meetings for another two years.

“I will remember Bruce as a gentle soul who had a kind word for everyone,” concluded Alexander. ” His soft-spoken advice seemed always to ring true. He was a gifted clinical pediatric nephrologist who understood the course and management of childhood nephrosis better than anyone I have known.”

Throughout his career, Tune always wanted to help others succeed, added Salvatierra. “He was there for everyone who needed him — patients, parents, medical students and residents, the Department of Pediatrics when they needed an acting chair. Professionally, his heart and soul was all Stanford.”

In addition to his wife, two children and grandchild, Tune is survived by his mother, Sylvia Newman Tune of Orange, Calif. The family asked that anyone wishing to make donations in Tune’s memory consider giving to the American Parkinson Disease Association.

The Department of Pediatrics is planning a memorial service, although details are still being arranged.