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News & Press: People and Places

Harold R. Roberts, First ISTH Executive Director, Dies at Age 87

Tuesday, September 12, 2017   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Luke Blount
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Harold R. Roberts, M.D., the first Executive Director of the International Society on Thrombosis and Haemostasis (ISTH), died on Saturday, September 9. He was 87 years of age.

Roberts was a giant in the field of thrombosis and hemostasis and an instrumental guiding force and mentor within the ISTH. He was a charter member of the ISTH and served as Secretary General of the Scientific and Standardization Committee (SSC) from 1978 to 1988 before becoming the first Executive Director, a position he held until 1999. From 1999-2007, he served as Senior Associate Editor of the Society’s journal, where, together with Editor-in-Chief Pier Mannucci, he oversaw the founding and start-up of the Journal of Thrombosis and Hemostasis (JTH).

In recognition of his extraordinary accomplishments, the ISTH awarded Roberts with the Distinguished Career Award in 1983 and later, with the Robert P. Grant Medal, the highest honor of the ISTH, in 1995. Additionally, in 2006, the ISTH established the Harold R. Roberts Medal, a biennial award recognizing members for significant contributions to the SSC.

Harold R. Roberts

A native of Four Oaks, North Carolina, USA, Roberts earned his undergraduate and medical degrees from the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill. He was appointed to the faculty in 1961 and in 1967, he became Chief of the Division of Hematology. For 20 years, he served as Director of the UNC Center for Thrombosis and Hemostasis, which he founded in 1978. As a young scientist, Roberts worked with Kenneth Brinkhous, M.D., and in 1965, Roberts, Brinkhous and their colleagues developed the first highly purified concentrate of blood clotting factor VIII, which was later commercialized by Baxter-Hyland. In 1987, a UNC patient with hemophilia A became the first person in the world to be infused with recombinant factor VIII. At the bench, Roberts and colleagues revised the generally accepted theory of the day by showing that the clotting mechanism is localized at the site of bleeding.


Roberts received numerous honors for his achievements in hematology research, including the French International Prize for Research in Hemophilia, the Kenneth Brinkhous Award for Excellence in Clinical Research from the National Hemophilia Foundation and the American Society of Hematology’s Henry M. Stratton Medal. He received an honorary doctorate from the University of Lund. He was also the recipient of UNC Medical School’s Basic Science Teaching Award in 1965, and in 2000 he was presented the Medical Alumni Distinguished Faculty Award.  

Roberts was known as an exceptional physician, and a perennial patient champion. He was a leader, mentor, counselor and scientific diplomat recognized internationally for his fairness, wisdom and devotion. 

He is survived by two sons, Eric and John and two grandchildren, Carl and Alexandra. He was preceded in death by his wife, Marilyn earlier this year. 

The Roberts family asks that gifts be directed to the UNC School of Medicine through the Medical Foundation of NC, Inc., 880 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Chapel Hill, NC 27514. Checks should be made payable to the Medical Foundation of NC.  Please note on the check that it is a memorial for Dr. Harold Roberts for the Harold Roberts MD Memorial Fund.

Gifts may also be made online here: Donors will need to search for the fund name and will be able to include the memorial tribute information.

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