January 15, 2016

Lawrence Longo, Leading Prenatal Expert at Loma Linda University, Dead at 89

Lawrence D. Longo, an internationally renowned expert on prenatal biology and the founder and chairman emeritus of the NIH Center for Perinatal Biology at Loma Linda University, has died after a brief hospitalization, the university said Thursday. He was 89.

Longo was widely regarded as one of the most influential figures in the fields of prenatal and perinatal developmental biology, which studies the biology of the developing fetus and newborn infant.

“Longo was famous for his extraordinary output as a researcher and author as well as a world-class mentor and educator who trained thousands of leading practitioners and scientists throughout the course of a career that spanned five decades,” Seventh-day Adventist Church-owned Loma Linda University Health said in an e-mailed statement.

Longo died Jan. 5. The university did not give a cause of death.

Flags on the campus in Loma Linda, California, were flown at half-staff this week to honor Longo’s memory and his contribution to the university and the scientific community.

“Loma Linda and the research and scientific community at large have lost a giant,” said Roger Hadley, dean of the Loma Linda University School of Medicine. “More than his long list of impressive credentials, it was unequivocally clear to anyone who knew him that he had a deep passion for integrating scientific knowledge into education, patient care, and research to make this world a better place.”

Longo at a 2013 event where he received the Loma Linda University Health Lifetime Achievement Award. (LLUH)

Longo was born Oct. 11, 1926, in Los Angeles, California, to Frank Albert Longo, a Southern Pacific Railroad employee, and Florine Azalea Longo, a nurse. He was their third child.

As a budding researcher, he majored in chemistry at Adventist-owned Pacific Union College in Angwin, California, where he met his future wife, Betty Jeanne Mundall. The couple married on Sept. 9, 1948, in Glendale, California.

After graduating from Pacific Union College in 1949, Longo moved to southern California and enrolled in the College of Medical Evangelists, as the Loma Linda University School of Medicine was known at the time.

Graduating with a doctor of medicine degree in 1954, he took a one-year internship at Los Angeles County Hospital, followed by a three-year residency in obstetrics and gynecology at the same institution. In summer 1959, he took a two-month fellowship in reproductive physiology at the University of California at Los Angeles.

“Dr. Longo was internationally recognized in his field as a researcher, mentor, teacher, missionary, innovator, medical historian, and ambassador of academic scholarship, and his research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other agencies for more than four decades,” the university said.

The National Institutes of Health is one of the world’s foremost medical research centers and is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, a federal government agency.

Longo founded the NIH Center for Perinatal Biology at the Loma Linda University School of Medicine about 30 years ago, and it now comprises of a team of a dozen university faculty members, according to the center’s webpage.

“During the past three decades the center has evolved from a quasi-independent division of the department of physiology to a ‘mini-institute’ within the university,” the webpage said. “Without exception, the faculty of the Center for Perinatal Biology are national and international leaders in fetal and neonatal physiology and/or biochemisty, and are experts in their individual discipline.”

Among his other achievements, Longo authored more than 350 scientific papers, and edited or authored 20 books.

Richard H. Hart, president of Loma Linda University Health, presented Longo with the Loma Linda University Health Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2013 graduation ceremony for the university School of Medicine.

A public memorial service will be held at the Loma Linda University Church at 6:30 p.m. on Jan. 23.