Cover photo for Dr. Michael M. Frank's Obituary
Dr. Michael M. Frank Profile Photo
1937 Dr. 2019

Dr. Michael M. Frank

February 28, 1937 — August 1, 2019

DURHAM- Michael M. Frank, MD, the Samuel L. Katz Professor emeritus and Chairman emeritus of Pediatrics at Duke University, passed away at the age of 82 on August 1st, 2019 in Durham, NC. Dr. Frank was born in Brooklyn, New York on February 28, 1937 to the late Helen and Robert Frank. He graduated from James Madison High School at the age of 15 and received a Ford Foundation Scholarship to attend the University of Wisconsin -Madison from which he graduated with honors. He earned his medical degree from Harvard University School of Medicine graduating in 1960. Dr. Frank completed his internship at the Boston City Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts and was accepted as a pediatrics resident at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, MD. During his second year of residency, Dr. Frank spent a year at the National Institutes of Health and was bitten by the medical research bug. After completing his residency, he spent a year at the Mill Hill Medical Research Laboratories in London, England where he worked with Dr. J.H. Humphrey and developed a love for immunology.

After returning to the NIH in 1966, Dr. Frank gradually rose through the ranks as a senior investigator, then Head of the Laboratory of Clinical Immunology within the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. In 1977, he was selected to become the Clinical Director of the Institute, a post he held for thirteen years. A world leader in the field of complement, Dr. Frank mentored some of the most prominent allergists and immunologists in the world today and was immensely proud of the success enjoyed by his trainees.

In 1990, Dr. Frank left the NIH and began a second career in academic medicine as the Samuel L. Katz Professor and Chairman of Pediatrics at Duke University Medical School. In embracing his new role, he combined his love of clinical medicine and child health with his skills as a bench researcher. Dr. Frank was author of over 450 peer reviewed scientific papers, was an invited lecturer all over the world and co-authored the fifth edition of Samter’s Immunological Diseases, one of the preeminent textbooks in the field.

Under his leadership, the department of Pediatrics grew, doubling the number of faculty. Events such as the Duke Children’s Classic Pro-am Golf Tournament and Teddy Bear Ball became annual fundraising successes. Feeling strongly that the department of pediatrics needed its own space, Dr. Frank was instrumental in the construction of the Duke Children’s Hospital and Health Care System in 2000. The hospital is widely regarded as one of the top children’s hospitals in the country and remains as a legacy to his perseverance and drive.

When Dr. Frank stepped down as department chairman in 2004, he returned to laboratory. In 2009, he received a multiyear grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to continue his research into the mechanisms of the immune response in patients with HIV-1. Earlier this year, the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI) honored his lifetime of research contributions with the creation of the Michael M. Frank, MD Lectureship. He continued to do bench research, travel to conferences, consult for industry and write nearly until his death.

Dr. Frank was an active member of Beth El Congregation in Durham, NC. He enjoyed bike riding especially an annual trip biking Maryland’s eastern shore and metal work in his spare time. He loved spending time with his family and relished the accomplishments of his children and grandchildren.

He is preceded in death by his wife of 50 years, Ruth Sybil Frank. Dr. Frank is survived by his three children: Dr. Robert Frank (Rebecca) of Oak Park, IL, Abigail Miller (Mark) of Portage, MI, and Steven Frank of New York, NY. He also leaves four grandchildren: Benjamin Miller (20), Aidan Frank (18), Alyson Miller (17), and Hannah Frank (5).

In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made in his name to the Duke Children’s Hospital. Services will be held Sunday August 4th at 11AM at Temple Beth El, 1004 Watts Street, Durham, NC 27701. A graveside ceremony at Durham Hebrew Cemetery (Maplewood) will follow the service with a memorial reception immediately after the graveside ceremony. The memorial reception will be held at the Forest at Duke, 2701 Pickett Road, Durham, NC 27705.

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