Henry (Hank) I. Yamamura, 1940-2008

Pharmacology has lost another giant. Hank Yamamura died last night after a long battle with cancer. It is hard to imagine that there is a pharmacologist alive today that is not familiar with the work of Dr. Yamamura. He is the author of nearly 500 papers, countless books and book chapters and a mentor to a generation of pharmacologists. Hank did his PhD at University of Washington and then headed to Sol Snyder’s lab for postdoctoral work. Hank played a major role in the original descriptions of muscarinic pharmacology while working with Snyder. In 1975 he moved to the University of Arizona where he eventual became a Regent’s Professor in the Department of Pharmacology. At the University of Arizona, Hank practically wrote the book on opioid receptor pharmacology with especially strong contributions to the area of delta-opioid peptides. Hank was an active and cherished member of the Department of Pharmacology from 1975 until the day of his passing.

I first learned about Hank Yamamura, like most pharmacology PhD students, from his book “Neurotransmitter Receptor Binding”. His contributions to cannabinoid pharmacology played an important role in my PhD work. For the past 9 months of my life I was lucky enough to work in the same Department with Hank. When I first arrived here he was one of the first to greet me. Hank made a point to come visit my office (which was in a separate building) at least once a week and he was always eager to hear about what we were working on. He read all of my grant applications and gave me incredibly detailed comments. He shared advice on navigating the varieties of channels at the University and we eventually developed a small collaboration (which will continue). In other words, in 9 short months Hank became one of the most important mentors I have ever had and became a dear friend. I am just one of hundreds of trainees and faculty who have been positively touched by Hank’s never-ending enthusiasm for science and boundless generosity. I think I can speak for the entire field in saying that we will all miss Hank.

Hank’s obituary and guest book


7 responses to “Henry (Hank) I. Yamamura, 1940-2008

  1. Dude, I’m really sorry for your loss.

  2. Man, that really sucks.

  3. I am lucky to count Hank as a mentor as well (he was on my dissertation committee).

    Thank you for the excellent tribute.

  4. Our lab has piles of his papers. His contribution to the field of neurotransmitter binding was enormous. We’ll all miss him. I’m so sorry for your loss.

  5. Thanks to all of you for your comments and condolences. If you would like to leave a message for Hank’s family you can click the link above, it goes to Hank’s guest book through a local newspaper. There is also information about Hank’s foundation there.

    Our lab has piles of his papers. His contribution to the field of neurotransmitter binding was enormous.

    I looked back through my dissertation this weekend to see how many of Hank’s papers were cited in it. The number was quite remarkable (more than 20).

  6. I ended up working outside of neuropharm but I had the honor in 1985 of being interviewed for grad school by Dr Yamamura. A great loss, and far too young, but you are very fortunate to have known him personally. As you note from your dissertation, his work will live on in a great many neuropharmacologists.

    My condolences to his family, your department, and the local community on the loss of such a great man. Thank you for sharing this.

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