John Urquhart M.D.
John Urquhart, MD John Urquhart, MD, passed away on March 19, 2016 in Palo Alto, California. He was 81 years old. John was born in Pittsburgh on April 24, 1934 to John Urquhart, Jr. and Wilma Martin Urquhart. He graduated with a BA in English from Rice University (1955) and an MD from Harvard Medical School (1959). In 1957 he married Joan Cooley, a classmate at Rice, in Houston. After 2 years of surgical training at the Massachusetts General Hospital and 2 years at the National Institutes of Health as a cardiovascular researcher, John joined the faculty of the Department of Physiology at the University of Pittsburgh Medical School in 1963. Over the next 53 years his career spanned physiology, bioengineering, the biopharmaceutical sciences, and pharmaco-epidemiology. By 1970 John's research had taken him increasingly in the direction of biomedical engineering. At the invitation of Alejandro Zaffaroni, he left academia and joined ALZA Corporation in Palo Alto becoming, as he liked to say, "a defrocked professor." From 1974-1985 he led ALZA's pioneering R&D of drug delivery systems, devising innovative dosage forms such as transdermal patches and controlled release oral products that became models for industry-wide development of safer and more effective pharmaceuticals. John embraced the California lifestyle with joy and enthusiasm. He indulged his passion for Citroens with a succession of increasingly exotic and increasingly old French cars. He bicycled with his son, Malcolm, up and down the Santa Cruz Mountains. He learned the fine art of coaxing a horse into a trailer so he could transport his daughter, Elizabeth, to horse shows sometimes as far away as Santa Barbara. With Tom he traveled to Honolulu to do "on-site research" for a paper on Hawaii, and looked at Manhattan from the top of the World Trade Towers. Dressed in evening attire and black cowboy boots, he and Joan attended the San Francisco Opera, where John developed a passion for Wagner. Summers, they would take their bikes to Seattle and attend the Ring Cycle, cycling in the San Juan Islands and other surrounding areas on the days between performances. In 1985, John co-founded APREX Corporation to develop electronically monitored pharmaceutical packaging to measure patient compliance with dosing regimens by compiling ambulatory patients' dosing histories. Concurrently, he and a group of medical colleagues in the Netherlands formed a study-team to develop programs for long-term post-marketing surveillance of prescription drugs in large populations. John was appointed Extraordinary Professor of Pharmaco-epidemiology at Maastricht University in 1992, and was recognized by an honorary degree from the University of Utrecht in 1997. John and Joan loved Maastricht, where his portrait hangs on the wall of his neighborhood pub, 'T Pruuske. They imported a tandem from California and rode it around Limburg and into Belgium, introducing the then-new bicycle helmet, complete with rear-view mirror, which inspired disbelief or laughter – and sometimes both. They cycled the Western Front, the beaches of Normandy, and the perimeters of Luxemburg. Cook's European Rail Guide was bedtime reading. John officially retired from his position at Maastricht University in 2004. APREX evolved into AARDEX Group and was acquired by MWV Corporation in 2012, where John remained associated until his death. John was many things – doctor, scientist, teacher, husband, father, grandfather, music lover, inveterate scholar, prolific author, world traveler, raconteur, and friend to many. He was a big man with a big heart, keen intellect, wonderful sense of humor, and an enormous love of life and family. In addition to his wife Joan, John is survived by his daughter, Elizabeth Vdovjak (John), his sons Malcolm and Thomas (Mary), grandchildren Kate, Natalie, Abigail and Caleb, 4 great-grandchildren, and his sister Ellen Engstrom. His son John Christopher predeceased him.
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