October 17, 2018

In Memoriam: the death of Dr. Anthony “Tony” Sebastian, professor in our UCSF Health Division of Nephrology

Tony Sebastian
Tony Sebastian

We are writing with the sad news that Dr. Anthony “Tony” Sebastian passed away last Friday after a relatively brief stay in the ICU at Parnassus. He was 80 years old.

It is an understatement to say that Tony was one of the most remarkable members of our faculty. Despite battling progressive degenerative neurological disease for over 50 years – a disease that eventually resulted in him becoming quadriplegic, wheelchair-bound and ventilator-dependent – he remained a proud and active member of our academic community until the very end. In fact, he had multiple publications in the past few years, including a first-author paper published just this month! In it, Tony advanced the provocative hypothesis that our departure from prehistoric diets has led to deleterious health consequences.

For those who knew him, Tony was the very definition of indominable spirit and courage.

Tony obtained his undergraduate degree from UCLA and then completed all his medical training at UCSF, including a nephrology fellowship (1968-1972). Among his notable scientific accomplishments, he

  • determined the mechanisms for renal potassium wasting in types 1 and 2 renal tubular acidosis (work with Curtis Morris);
  • identified a new type of RTA (so-called type 4), its pathogenesis and treatment (work with Morrie Schambelan);
  • defined the role of mineralocorticoid hormones in potassium and acid-base metabolism (also with Morrie Schambelan);
  • proposed a renal chloride shunt in the pathogenesis of type 2 pseudohypoaldosteronism (with Floyd Rector and Morrie Schambelan).

His more recent work (with Curtis Morris and Lynda Frassetto) focused on the deleterious effects of net acid-producing diets on bone metabolism. In particular, this research pointed to the role that excess sodium and insufficient potassium intake may play in the pathogenesis of essential (and particularly salt-sensitive) hypertension.

Tony’s achievements were recognized by honors such as the Distinguished Clinical Research Lectureship at UCSF in 2005 (together with Curtis Morris). He and Curtis also received the American Society of Nephrology Belding Scribner Award in 2002.

Tony is survived by his wife of 54 years, Dr. Patricia Schoenfeld Sebastian, who was herself a member of the UCSF faculty, also in nephrology. Pat was based at San Francisco General Hospital, where she served as medical director of the UC Renal Center. We send Pat, and all of Tony’s family, our most heartfelt sympathy. 

There will be a memorial service for Tony this Saturday (October 20) in Millberry Union, 500 Parnassus Avenue, from 12-4 pm. Tony’s family also asked that those interested in making a donation in his memory direct their support to the Patricia and Anthony Sebastian Scholarship Fund at UCSF. Go to www.makeagift.ucsf.edu, click on the blue box stating “Direct your gift to a specific area” and type in S8037, which will route your gift to the Class of 1965 Sebastian Scholarship.

A website including memories of and tributes to Tony can be found here.



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


Robert M. Wachter, MD
Chair, Department of Medicine, UCSF