Piero P. Foa --- Obituaries
Detroit Free Press
Wayne State University
P. Foa --- Eulogies
to Richard Katz's home page
Diabetes Researcher Dr. Piero Foa
Jewish News, 11/19/05
Dr. Piero P. Foa was a dedicated medical researcher who spent his adult
life studying the endocrine pancreas and its relationship to diabetes.
Dr. Foa’s contributions included the first convincing demonstration
that glucose stimulates the secretion of insulin and that hypoglycemia
stimulates the secretion of a second pancreatic hormone named
glucagons, said son Richard.
Dr. Foa, 94, of West Bloomfield, died Nov. 12, 2005. His funeral, set
for 11 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 17, at Ira Kaufman Chapel, is on the same
day he had been scheduled to be honored by the Dante Alighieri Society,
an Italian cultural organization.
Born in Turin, he began his research career at the University of Milan,
which awarded him his medical degree in 1934 and his doctor of science
in 1938. He escaped fascist Italy in 1939.
After arriving in the United States, he was a research fellow at Yale
University in New Haven, Conn., and later at the University of Michigan
in Ann Arbor, where he met his wife, Naomi, who was his research lab
Dr. Foa spent many years as a professor of physiology and pharmacology
at the University of Chicago Medical School. He came to Detroit in 1962
as the first chairman of the newly created department of research at
Detroit’s Sinai Hospital as well as a research teacher of physiology at
Wayne State University. After retiring from Sinai, he became a
full-time professor at Wayne before retiring in 1982.
During his career, Dr. Foa authored four books and edited 15
anthologies of essays. He also has been published in more than 250
publications on the physiology of the endocrine pancreas and its
relationship to diabetes.
Dr. Foa was honored many times for his research, including gold medals
from the University of Milan as well as the Italian Diabetes Socety,
the Wayne State President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, its
Distinguished Services Award, the Sigma Xi Faculty Research Award,
election to the Wayne Academy of Scholars, and an award given by
students for being the year’s best teacher.
Over the years, he has lectured in North and South America, Spain,
Italy, Japan, Switzerland and Nigeria. More than 30 of his former
students are continuing research he initiated in the United States,
Canada, Italy, Japan, Spain and Switzerland.
Aside from medical research, Dr. Foa also studied an interesting Jewish
topic: the history of the Magen David. In the 15th century, his son
noted, the six-pointed star was used by an ancestor as the family seal
and as the mark of his work as a printer.
Contributions may be made to the Piero P. Foa Annual Lecture, Wayne
State University Medical School, Office of Development and Alumni
Affairs, 101 E. Alexandrine, Detroit, MI 48201; American Diabetes
Association-Michigan, 30600 Telegraph, Bingham Farms, MI 48025; or
Jewish Woman’s Foundation, 6735 Telegraph, Bloomfield Township, MI
38303. Arrangements by Ira Kaufman Chapel.
Copy Editor Leonard Poger contributed
to this story to this story.
Dr. Piero P. Foa: Professor, Diabetes
by Joe Rossiter, Free Press Staff Writer
Detroit Free Press, 11/16/05
Dr. Piero P. Foa, hailed as one of Wayne State University's most
influential teachers and a trailblazer in the field of diabetes
research, died Saturday of natural causes at his home in West
Bloomfield. He was 94.
Dr. Foa is credited with presenting the first convincing evidence that
glucose stimulates the secretion of insulin and that hypoglycemia
stimulates the secretion of a second pancreatic hormone called glucagon.
His discovery helped promote the fight against diabetes, a disease
that, according to the American Diabetes Association, affects 20.8
million people in the United States, or 7% of the population.
A professor emeritus in the Department of Physiology, Dr. Foa's long
and distinguished association with the School of Medicine began in 1962
when he came to Detroit as chairman of the Department of Research at
Sinai Hospital and professor of physiology at Wayne State's School of
As a teacher, Dr. Foa mentored graduate and medical students, fellows
and visiting scientists from around the world. Many of his former
students went on to achieve leadership positions throughout the field
of physiology. Among them is Joseph Dunbar, PhD, who completed his
dissertation with the assistance of Dr. Foa.
"The reason why he was so revered in the profession is because he was
always the teacher, mentor and collaborator with other scientists, as
well as with the students," said Dunbar. "He was always trying to
promote excellent dialogue among students, as well as constant
discussion with scientists, which is how he worked. Based on those
traits, he was truly a leader."
Born in Turin, Italy, Dr. Foa received both a medical degree in 1934
and a doctorate in chemistry in 1938 from the University of Milan,
where he served internships in medicine and surgery.
To escape the pressures of fascist Italy, he fled the country and
arrived in the United States in 1939 to begin a research fellowship at
He attended the University of Michigan as a research fellow until 1943.
While at U-M, he met his wife of 64 years, the former Naomi Levin. He
later held a faculty position at Chicago Medical School in physiology
and pharmacology from 1944 to 1961.
Dr. Foa was the author of several books and published more than 250
articles on the subject of the endocrine pancreas and its relationship
to diabetes. He also served as an international lecturer on the topic,
traveling to South America, Europe and Africa. He was the recipient of
numerous teaching and scientific awards throughout his distinguished
(reprinted with the permission of Detroit Free Press publisher David
In Memoriam, Piero P. Foa, MD, PhD
April 13, 1911 - November 11, 2005
From a Wayne State University web page.
Piero P. Foa, MD, Ph.D, lauded as one of the WSU’s most influential
teachers and a trailblazer in diabetes research, died on Friday, Nov.
11. Dr. Foa was 94-years-old.
A professor emeritus of the Department of Physiology, Dr. Foa’s long
and distinguished association with the School of Medicine began in
1962, when he came to Detroit as chairman of the Department of Research
at Sinai Hospital and professor of physiology at WSU. He served as
acting chair of physiology in 1980-81.
In the span of his career, Dr. Foa celebrated many scientific
accomplishments and accolades, including his presentation of evidence
to establish that glucagons is a pancreatic hormone and the
documentation of the mechanism of drugs used for the oral treatment of
diabetes. Dr. Foa’s primary research focused on glucagons and insulin
secretion and their role in the utilization of nutrients and the
regulation of blood sugar levels.
“An advocate and practitioner of quality of opportunity, Dr. Foa has
been the mentor of new generations of medical scientists, based solely
on promise, talents and achievements. I have been proud to have been
among them,” Dr. Dunbar has said.
Dr. Foa is the recipient of the School of Medicine Lamp Award bestowed
by the medical students on their most influential teachers. He has been
recognized internationally with numerous professional awards of merit,
and was the recipient of the WSU Medical Alumni Association Weiner
Award for distinguished achievement and the School of Medicine 1983
Distinguished Service Award. In 1999, the School of Medicine
established the Piero P. Foa, M.D., Ph.D. Endowed Lectureship in the
Department of Physiology.
Born in Torino, Italy, Dr. Foa received both a medical degree and
doctorate in chemistry from the University of Milano, Italy, where he
served internships in medicine and surgery. He went to the University
of Michigan as a research fellow in surgery and medicine, and then
served on the faculty of the Chicago Medical School before coming to
Dr. Foa is survived by his wife of 54 years, Naomi, along with
children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He lived in West