In Remembrance of Dr. David Robertson (1947-2024)

In Remembrance of Dr. David Robertson (1947-2024)

David Robertson, M.D.

It is with sadness that we write to you with the news that David Robertson, M.D. passed away on January 12, 2024, at his home and in the presence of his family.

Dr. David Robertson founded the first center of excellence focused on autonomic disorders back in 1979 when he came back to Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN after completing his medical residence and Chief Residency at Johns Hopkins University.

Dr. Robertson was a founding member of the American Autonomic Society, with the first informal meeting of the Society in his living room in Nashville in 1990. When the Society was formally incorporated, he became the first President of the American Autonomic Society in 1992.

He has had a highly distinguished scientific career with many important contributions to the study of autonomic disorders, including orthostatic hypotension and postural tachycardia syndrome. He and colleagues are credited with describing dopamine beta-hydroxylase deficiency, the important pathophysiological role of the norepinephrine transporter (uptake-1) in postural tachycardia syndrome (POTS), and the subtype known as neuropathic POTS. He has published senior author papers in the New England Journal of Medicine on baroreflex failure and POTS. He has served as a clinician-expert in autonomic disorders for over 40 years and maintained continuous NIH peer-reviewed research funding for over 30 years. Dr. Robertson was the Principal Investigator of NIH’s Autonomic Rare Diseases Consortium that brought together major autonomic centers with the purpose of accelerating the discovery of new treatments for autonomic disorders.

Dr. Robertson was deeply committed to patient-oriented and patient-engaged research. The genesis of the American Autonomic Society involved patient-engagement in the form of the Shy-Drager Support Group. Dr. Robertson was also a founding member of the Association for Patient-Oriented Research (APOR). Dr. Robertson taught us to listen to our patients. These conversations led to important discoveries, including the discovery of the osmopressor response.

Perhaps most important to his legacy, Dr. Robertson has trained several generations of autonomic researchers and clinicians, many of whom lead other autonomic centers around the world. Dr. Robertson was a mentor not only to those who spent time with him at Vanderbilt, but to many physicians and scientists from across the United States and beyond its shores. Dr. Robertson was also known for his kindness and support.

To honor the legacy of Dr. David Robertson, the American Autonomic Society created the David Robertson Lecture in Autonomic Disorders and an associated Robertson Fund in 2018. These continue as an annual tribute to this giant upon whose shoulders we stand.

Amanda Peltier, MD, MS
Satish Raj, MD, MSCI
On behalf of the Board of the American Autonomic Society