Ex-UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital CEO Bert Lubin dies at 81

OAKLAND — Former UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital President and CEO Dr. Bert Lubin died Saturday at home. He was 81.

Born in New York City’s Bronx in 1939, Lubin moved to Pennsylvania at age 7 and grew up in the town of Bellevue, just outside Pittsburgh. There, he worked at George’s Fruit Market owned by his parents, who did not attend high school.

As the first in his family to graduate college and one of four in his high school class to attend college, Lubin soon earned a bachelor’s degree from Washington & Jefferson College in Washington, Pa., and a medical degree from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine before a pediatric residency at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

President and CEO Dr. Bertram Lubin talks about the state of the hospital at Children’s Hospital Oakland in Oakland, Calif., on Tuesday, March 23, 2010. (Dean Coppola/Staff) 

After Lubin was drafted, he served in the U.S. Army in Vietnam at a provincial health program before returning to the States for a hematology/oncology fellowship at Boston Children’s Hospital. Later, he returned to Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania, directing its hematology laboratory while teaching as an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania.

In 1973, Lubin joined Children’s Hospital Oakland as chief of hematology and oncology, starting its CHORI research program, where he helped contribute to blood-disease breakthroughs. His advocacy on sickle-cell disease screening for newborn children led California to become the first state to require such efforts.

The process challenged Lubin, who spoke about the process to UC Berkeley’s Blum Center in 2018: “I knew I had to do things that were widely accepted. I knew some members of the community might see the testing as earmarking them in a negative way, so I had to get them on board, which meant going to every possible community meeting.”

In 2009, Lubin became the hospital’s president and CEO, and the first pediatrician to lead a children’s hospital in the state. His leadership outside hospital doors helped forge its later tie with the University of California San Francisco, but he kept the common touch inside, speaking with staff ranging from nurses to cleaning staff and security on a first-name basis.

According to a UCSF statement Tuesday, Lubin’s philanthropic efforts helped causes including First 5 California, East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation, Oakland Leaf, Oakland Community Pools Project, East Bay College Fund and Notes and Words. He also founded the hospital’s Center for Community Health and Engagement, and served on multiple regional boards, including the Oakland mayor’s Health Task Force, Oakland Promise, and the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music.

Off work, Lubin rooted for the NBA’s Golden State Warriors, maintained tennis prowess picked up during his college-team days well into his later years, and loved listening to jazz and playing drums.

“More than anything, Bert was a caring person who positively impacted as many lives as possible, whether by mentoring up-and-coming scientists through the summer internship program for young scientists or by lending a helping hand to people who needed medical advice. He had a huge heart, a warm smile, and a commitment to leaving the world a better place, UCSF Health President and CEO Mark Laret said Tuesday.

“His positivity, energy, passion for children and his community was unceasing. He will be sorely missed. On behalf of UCSF, we extend our deepest condolences to his wife Vivian Scharlach and his children.”

According to a statement provided to this news organization, Scharlach said donations in Lubin’s honor can be made to the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Center of Excellence for Immigrant Child and Wellbeing, and to the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Center for Child and Community Health.


Contact George Kelly at 408-859-5180.

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Author: George Kelly