Valley fever research pioneer dead at 89

Valley fever research pioneer dead at 89 »Play Video

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — Dr. Hans Einstein, a pioneer in the research and treatment of valley fever, has died.

Paula Einstein, a valley fever survivor herself, said her father died Saturday night of complications from heart disease. Many in the community remember Dr. Einstein for his tireless years of deep commitment.

"He was probably one of the most brilliant people I've ever been around," Michael Cooper told Eyewitness News. Cooper's president of a foundation that's working to find a vaccine to prevent valley fever.

A distant relative Albert Einstein, Dr. Hans Einstein worked toward developing a vaccine to prevent valley fever. He also worked hard to educate the public on the disease, and he treated many patients suffering with valley fever.

"You'd be with him somewhere, and somebody would come up and say, 'Dr. Einstein you treated my mother or my father,'" Cooper recalled. "They'd start telling him about it, and he would actually remember them. He had that kind of a memory."

Valley fever is carried by spores from the soil. It's not found it very many locations, but Kern County is one of those spots.

Quon Louey says he had a bad case of valley fever about 10 years ago.

"My experience with valley fever was very drastic," Louey said. "I was out of work for a good two to three months." Louey said he and his doctor got good advice from Einstein.

Kern County Health Officer Dr. Claudia Jonah says Einstein's contributions are significant in the understanding and treatment of valley fever

"It can be a devastating thing for that small percentage of persons who get a severe illness," Jonah explained. "They can even have permanent damage and die from the infection."

The Kern County Department of Public Health has an auditorium at its Mt. Vernon Avenue headquarters named in honor of Einstein. It's their "education center," and Jonah pointed to his work as an educator as another important contribution.

"I always learned something every time I was around him," she said. "He was willing to share his wisdom, and he had so much of it."

Fellow valley fever pioneer Dr. Thomas Larwood echoed that, calling Einstein knowledgeable, smart and caring.

Daughter Paula Einstein said her father had been fragile for a while, but he just kept going. She said it made him happy to be a doctor and a teacher. She said he had continued helping at a Kern County tuberculosis clinic until just a few months ago.

And, Jonah remembered times when Einstein would arrive at that clinic on his bicycle.

"He would ride his bicycle to the public health department for a tuberculosis clinic from Memorial Hospital," Jonah said. "With his helmet, and his bike, and all that."

Einstein was born in Germany in 1923. After Hitler took over, Einstein, his mother and sister moved to Holland. That's where he went to high school, according to his daughter. Einstein came to the United States for college and medical school.

Daughter Paula Einstein said her father moved his young family to Bakersfield in the early 1950s, because Kern General Hospital, the forerunner of Kern Medical Center, offered him a paid position as an internist.

In later years, he was medical director at several hospitals and had a private practice, according to the daughter.

Paula Einstein said the family plans a private service soon, but the public will be welcome to a celebration of his life, which she said would be early this fall.

The family suggested in lieu of flowers, donations to the Valley Fever Americas Foundation for their work to find a vaccine to prevent the disease. Paula Einstein said donations can be sent to VFAF, Post Office Box 2752, Bakersfield, CA, 93303.

"I'd invited him for Christmas luncheon every Christmas in the past few years," Louey said. He remembers Dr. Hans Einstein as a friend and more.

"Everybody respects him in this community," Louey said. "He's going to be very well missed."

From the Valley Fever Foundation, Michael Cooper agrees.

"He was a great human being, He was a great physician. He was a treasure for this community, an absolute treasure."

Einstein leaves behind five daughters. He was 89 years old.