Dr. Donald “Don” Gilden, former neurology chair of the CU School of Medicine’s neurology department until 2010, passed away Monday, Aug. 22, 2016, in Denver. He was 78.
Rabbi Bernard Gerson officiated at the Aug. 25 service at Rodef Shalom. Interment followed at Mt. Nebo Cemetery. Feldman Mortuary made the arrangements.
“Above all else, Dad was a family man,” said his son Daniel Gilden. “Nothing pleased him more than spending quality time with the entire family.
“He came home for dinner every night when we were kids,” Daniel said, “and he went to all our important events. When he became a grandfather, he left work early one day every week to pick them up and do something fun with them.
“He was an incredibly loving, affectionate person. He lived life every day to the fullest.”
Dr. Gilden was born in 1937 in Baltimore, MD, where he was raised. His father was a Jewish immigrant from Poland and his mother’s parents came from Belarus.
He played one season of semi-professional baseball before attending Dartmouth College in 1955. He went to the University of Maryland Medical School and completed his neurology residency at the University of Chicago.
Dr. Gilden met his future wife, Audrey Steinman, at the University of Chicago. Married on Dec. 25, 1966, they were together for 49 years.
Following his residency, he served for two years as a physician in the US Army at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. He subsequently completed a post-doctoral fellowship in neuro-virology at Johns Hopkins University.
Dr. Gilden was professor of neurology at the University of Pennsylvania and the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia.
He moved to Colorado in 1985 as a professor and then chair of CU’s neurology department.
During his 24-year tenure at CU, Dr. Gilden expanded the department from fewer than 10 full-time faculty members into a nationally recognized multi-subspecialty unit with over 30 faculty members.
His extensive involvement in residency education leaves a legacy of well-trained neurologists who continue serving Colorado’s community.
A distinguished NIH-funded researcher, Dr. Gilden published over 420 scientific papers and book chapters over his career and edited several books on virus infections of the central nervous system.
In 1983, his lab at the University of Pennsylvania proved that varicella zoster virus (VZV), which causes chicken pox and shingles, becomes latent in the peripheral nervous system.
He also showed that the shingles infection could cause pain without a rash.
During the latter part of his career, his lab demonstrated that VZV could lead to strokes and aneurysms following an infection of blood vessels in the brain.
In 2015, his research group published a paper showing that VZV might cause giant cell arteritis, which results in headaches and vision loss in the elderly.
An avid amateur musician and skier, Dr. Gilden rose early each morning to play his violin and was known for giving musical performances at scientific conferences.
He skied over 20 days every year and was able to ski several days in the last year of his life, despite his cancer diagnosis.
Dr. Gilden is survived by his wife Audrey Gilden; sons Daniel (Rocio Rubio Moiron) Gilden, Adam (Jean) Gilden Tsai and Paul (Tali Raviv) Gilden; sister Devera Gilden; brother-in-law Michael (Linda) Steinman; and six grandchildren.
Contributions may be made to Rodef Shalom or Hadassah Medical Organization.
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