Donald George McKay, Pathology: San Francisco

Professor Emeritus

Donald G. McKay, M.D., professor emeritus of pathology, died on August 4, 1985 at the age of 64. He was formerly professor of pathology at UCSF and chief of anatomic pathology at San Francisco General Hospital from 1967 to 1984. An outstanding pathologist and researcher of world renown, he was identified primarily as the person who delineated the syndrome of disseminated intravascular coagulation.

A native Californian, Dr. McKay was born and grew up in Sacramento. He did his premedical studies at Berkeley and received his M.D. degree from UCSF in 1945. Following his residency in Pathology at Boston City Hospital, he served two years in the U.S. Army Medical Corps at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. Returning to Boston in 1955, he embarked on a distinguished career in academic medicine which spanned 30 years at three medical schools: Harvard, Columbia, and UCSF. At the age of 39, he left Harvard to become Delafield Professor of Pathology and Chairman of the Department at the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University, the youngest appointment to the position. During his seven-year tenure at Columbia, he successfully developed one of the finest research oriented training programs in pathology in the country. While he established his reputation in the east, he longed, however, to return to his native state and, in 1967, he left New York to become professor of pathology at UCSF and chief of pathology at San Francisco General Hospital where he remained for 17 years until his retirement.

McKay achieved international recognition in many areas of pathology. Through his research, which included 250 published papers, he contributed enormously to our understanding of disseminated intravascular clotting, shock, and toxemia of pregnancy. He was particularly interested in the participation of the blood coagulation system in obstetrical and endotoxin shock and the use of anticoagulants to prevent the deleterious effects of massive clotting in certain forms of shock. His book, Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation, remains the standard reference work in this field

20 years after publication. In the best tradition of academic medicine, many young investigators who were trained in his laboratory are now actively engaged in research on blood clotting at medical centers throughout the world.

McKay also made important contributions as an obstetric and gynecologic pathologist. His work played an important role in establishing the progression of cervical dysplasis to carcinoma-in-situ to invasive carcinoma, and he pioneered the use of histochemical techniques for studying the embryologic development of the human ovary. His expertise as a diagnostic pathologist of gynecologic tumors was legendary and resulted in a steady stream of worldwide consultations. A gifted and enthusiastic teacher, he shared his consultation cases for teaching purposes and was a role model for many students who subsequently chose pathology and gynecologic pathology as a career.

His colleagues will remember DGM as a man of energy, vision, and the utmost integrity who was greatly respected by all who worked with him. He had a fine sense of humor and it was a delight to listen to his many anecdotes and stories. A man of great courage, he maintained his humor, his farsightedness, and his sense of perspective, although severely disabled by heart disease during the last decade of his life. Always outgoing and responsive, he had a wide circle of close friends with whom he shared his interests in ranching and farming, philately (he was an avid collector of American stamps), history and world affairs. Above all, no comment could fail to mention his intense affection and loyalty for the University of California where he was educated and spent most of his professional life. He is survived by his wife, Jacoba, whose devotion and encouragement were a great support, and three children, John, Mary and George.

W. Margaretten E.L. Howes Jr.