Sarah Bohndiek pays tribute to Sanjiv Sam Gambhir

It is with immense sadness we share the news that Sanjiv Sam Gambhir, MD, PhD, has passed away. Sam was a founding father of the fields of molecular imaging and early cancer detection. He was a pioneer in academic medicine, a brilliant scientist who dared to ask “what if”, and an outstanding leader. Together with these exceptional scientific qualities, Sam was an incredible mentor. He cared deeply for his science and his patients, but even more so for his scientific and personal family. Sam challenged us all: to be the best version of ourselves; to pursue our dreams; and to live life to the full.

I first met Sam when he came to Cambridge to deliver a CRUK CI Seminar in Cancer. Even in that first meeting, I encountered not only his true scientific brilliance but also his kind and open personal nature, when he gave his absolute concentration to the questions of a naïve (and physically trembling) postdoc who was trying to talk herself into job. From our first interaction, I realised that Sam was truly unique and I consider myself privileged to have occupied the “British desk” in his lab for two years. He held the most intense lab meetings I have ever experienced, driving us all forward with a single-minded focus to change the paradigm of medicine to one of precision health. He also held some of the best parties I have ever attended, including summer pool parties, winter holiday parties and the annual alumni party at the World Molecular Imaging Congress, held at a whiskey distillery and a boat on the Hudson River, to name just a couple. The time I spent with Sam had a profound impact on me and his continued influence on my science and leadership will pervade the rest of my career.

Sam was an inspiration to us all and will be sorely missed. He left the train far too early. I am sure that everyone who was touched by Sam’s passion and dedication will seek to honour his life and vision by continuing to strive for the day when we can detect the earliest molecular signs of disease and change the patient journey for the better.

A wonderful overview of his life and vision can be found in this video on the occasion of receiving the “Dean’s Medal” just last week.

I also recommend reading the moving Stanford Medicine story from 2016: https://stanmed.stanford.edu/2016fall/milan-gambhirs-li-fraumeni-syndrome.html

If so inclined, in lieu of flowers please consider donating to Dr. Gambhir's foundations:

*Canary Center for Early Detection

* PHIND Center

* Ben & Catherine Ivy Foundation