Samuel S. C. Yen, MD, D.Sc

Samuel Yen


Sam Yen was born into a medical family in Peking China on February 22, 1927, and grew up during the Japanese occupation of China, during which he escaped into the country’s interior in a journey lasting several weeks. He reached Chungking where he attended Chee-Loo University as a pre-med student. As a teenager, he flew airplanes for the Chinese National Airline Company over the Himalayas to assist the Flying Tigers. He was a member of the HUMP Pilots Association, recognizing the pilots who risked their lives flying over the Himalayas. He later escaped the Communist takeover of China by hiding in a prate boat bound for Taiwan.

He then continued his education at the Medical School at the University of Hong Kong followed by a residency at the Queen Mary Hospital. He then did a residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology at Johns Hopkins, a research fellowship at Harvard, and obtained his first faculty appointment at Case-Western Reserve University where Dr. Kenneth Ryan was Chair. Sam followed Dr. Ryan to UCSD in 1970, and succeeded him as Chair in 1972, becoming the W.R. Persons Professor in 1987.

It was in Boston that Sam began his extraordinarily prolific and successful research career. His pioneering work in the area of neuroendocrine regulation of the menstrual cycle provided numerous insights into problems such as infertility and the menopause. His major focus was on the brain-pituitary-ovarian mechanism and the effects of reproductive hormones on metabolism. He developed a close professional and personal relationship with Nobel Laureate Roger Guillemin, who discovered LH-releasing hormone, and collaborated on studies exploring the biological effects of that hormone in women. He published more than 450 research papers, many in Lancet, the New England Journal of Medicine, Nature and Science, as well as 40 book chapters. Together with Dr. Robert Jaffe, he also published the textbook “Reproductive Endocrinology”, one of the most comprehensive and authoritative books in the field.

Sam was the recipient of numerous awards and honors during his outstanding career. These included, to name just a few, the Axel Munthe International Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Reproductive Sciences, the Distinguished Achievement Award from the American Fertility Society, the Rhone-Poulenc Rorer Clinical Investigator Award from the Endocrine Society, and the Distinguished Scientist Award from the Society for Gynecological Investigation, as well as serving as its President. He was also a member of the Royal Society of Medicine, ad eundem of the Royal College of Obstetricans and Gynaecologists (UK), and the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences.

Sam died on December 26th, 2007 at the age of 79. He is survived by three daughters and a granddaughter, and his former wife Kathryn Yen.

Submitted by Robert Resnik, MD

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