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Tsai-Fan Yu: physician and researcher who established modern gout management
  1. Nicola Dalbeth
  1. Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, The University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand
  1. Correspondence to Dr Nicola Dalbeth, Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, University of Auckland, Auckland, 1023, New Zealand; n.dalbeth{at}

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Professor Tsai-Fan Yu (1911–2007) was a physician and researcher whose groundbreaking work established modern gout management strategies. From the 1950s, she treated patients at the Mount Sinai Medical Center Gout Research Clinic with novel therapeutics including adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), probenecid, sulfinpyrazone, allopurinol and benzbromarone. Her meticulous clinical observations provide the foundation for contemporary gout treatment.

Born in Shanghai in 1911, her mother died when she was 13 years old, and her father worked three jobs to support her in education.1 After graduating with the highest honours from Peking Union Medical College (PUMC), the premier medical school in China at the time, she became chief resident of internal medicine at PUMC, a remarkable distinction for a woman in 1939. In 1947, she immigrated to the USA, working first at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons before joining Mount Sinai Medical Center (figure 1). She was appointed Mount Sinai’s first female full professor in 1973 and retired at the age of 81 as a professor emeritus in 1992.

Figure 1

Professor Tsai-Fan Yu (photograph courtesy of Professor Hua Eleanor Yu).

Much of her gout research was in collaboration with Professor Alexander Gutman at Mount Sinai Medical Center. Together, they were at the forefront of the gout therapeutics revolution in the mid-20th century. These therapies transformed gout from a progressive, deforming disease managed with surgery and amputation, to a treatable condition.

In 1950, they described their clinical experience of ACTH for management of gout flares.2 At that time, treatment options for gout were very limited, mostly consisting of extreme dietary restriction, colchicine, carinamide (a weak uricosuric agent) and high-dose salicylate (as a uricousuric therapy).3 Gutman and Yu provided detailed and systematic descriptions of their treatment regimen and …

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  • Handling editor Josef S Smolen

  • Contributors ND is the sole author of this article.

  • Funding The author has not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests ND received consulting fees from AstraZeneca, Dyve Biosciences, Horizon, Selecta, Arthrosi, JW Pharmaceutical Corporation, PK Med, LG Chem, JPI, PTC Therapeutics and Protalix outside the submitted work.

  • Patient and public involvement Patients and the public were not involved in the design, conduct, reporting or dissemination plans of this research.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; externally peer reviewed.