July 16, 2021

In Memoriam: Announcing the Death of Curtis Morris, Professor Emeritus in Nephrology

Dear Colleagues:

We write to share the sad news that Dr. R. Curtis Morris, Jr, Professor Emeritus in the Division of Nephrology, passed away on July 9, 2021. He was 89 years old and was recently diagnosed with urothelial carcinoma. Dr. Morris’ career at UCSF is remarkable for its illustriousness and longevity.

Curtis MorrisDr. Morris finished medical school at the University of Texas-Galveston and came to UCSF in 1961 as a third-year resident in internal medicine. He joined our faculty in 1964 and was eventually promoted to become Professor of Medicine, Pediatrics, and Radiology. In addition to his own research activities, Dr. Morris served as director of the UCSF General Clinical Research Center (GCRC) from 1974-1998, which was the site of many key observations in fields ranging from nutrition to metabolism to genomics.

Dr. Morris was a member of the American Society of Clinical Investigation (ASCI) and the Association of American Physicians (AAP). With his long-time collaborator Dr. Tony Sebastian, he was honored with the Belding Scribner award from the American Society of Nephrology, for their “outstanding contributions that have a direct impact on the care of patients with renal disorders or have substantially changed the clinical practice of nephrology.” Locally, UCSF recognized Drs. Morris and Sebastian with the 5th Annual Distinguished Clinical Research Lecture in 2005. 

During his 60-year career at UCSF, Dr. Morris made seminal contributions to multiple areas of research. They included:

  • Elucidating subtypes of renal tubular acidosis and the importance of alkali therapy in restoring normal growth in children with renal tubular acidosis (with Elisabeth McSherry);
  • Defining the role of the anion in salt-sensitive hypertension: with animal studies published in Science and human studies in the New England Journal of Medicine (with Theodore Kurtz);
  • Quantifying the impact of oral intake of phosphorus on vitamin D and parathyroid hormone levels (with Anthony Portale);
  • Investigating the impact of positive acid balance and low level of metabolic acidosis on bone health (with Anthony Sebastian).

For several decades, Dr. Morris occupied an office on the 12th floor of Moffitt which had books and journals stacked floor-to-ceiling. Remarkably, his passion for new knowledge continued unabated until the very end – during the last 20 years of his life, he was fully engaged in advancing the theory that vasodysfunction, not natriuretic dysfunction, is the mechanistic abnormality that mediates salt-induced increases in blood pressure. His latest senior-authored paper was published just two months before his death.

Curtis Morris was a pillar of the scientific community at UCSF and in the Department of Medicine for more than half a century. We express our deepest condolences to his many friends and colleagues, here and around the world, and to his family. A memorial service will be planned in the fall.

If you would like to honor Dr. Morris’ legacy at UCSF, please consider making a gift in his memory; we will work with his wife, Mrs. Suzie Woodward Morris, to designate the funds in his honor. Gifts via check may be made out to the “UCSF Foundation” (with a note that the donation is “in memory of Curtis Morris”) and sent to The UCSF Foundation, PO Box 45339, San Francisco, CA 94145-0339.


Chi-yuan Hsu, MD, MSc
Chief, Division of Nephrology, UCSF Health

Robert M. Wachter, MD
Chair, Department of Medicine