In Loving Memory of

Sanjiv Sam Gambhir, MD, PhD

November 23, 1962 – July 18, 2020​

The mosaic photo above of Sanjiv Sam Gambhir contains over 2500 photos from Sandip Biswal’s collection from Stanford Radiology events. He collaborated with Ted Graves who wrote a program to create this beautiful image that represents the many lives Sam has touched.

Celebration of Life

was held on
Friday, August 14, 2020

Message from Stanford Radiology

July 18, 2020

Dear Radiology Family,

It is with profound sadness that we announce the passing of Sanjiv Sam Gambhir, our Chair of Radiology at Stanford University School of Medicine. Sam joined the Stanford faculty in 2003, and became chair of the Department of Radiology in 2011. A leader in the fields of molecular imaging and early cancer detection, as well as in academic medicine in general, Sam’s scientific accolades have few equals.

Sam’s storied professional career is only matched by his love and devotion to his family: his wife Aruna Gambhir, and his son, Milan who passed away in 2015 at the age of 16. Sam and Aruna together supported one another and were indefatigable in mind and spirit through Milan’s cancer battle.

In his chair role, Sam was regarded by all as a brilliant scientist, a groundbreaking clinician, and a true leader who was unafraid to make tough decisions. At the same time, Sam had an immeasurable capacity to be empathetic to each circumstance and person. Sam gave selflessly of himself in a way that was profound and genuine. He garnered the respect of his faculty, staff, trainees, other departmental chairs, the Dean’s Office, and the University.

With a combination of engaged intensity and reassuring wisdom, Sam cut through problems at all levels with clarity and insight. Sam commanded the room by his perceptiveness, his surprising quick and self-deprecating sense of humor, and the honesty and transparency of his message. When you were with him, Sam saw and heard you and made you feel important.

Sam brought the best out of everyone. He was demanding most of all of himself, and of everyone around him. Not only did he push himself harder than anyone else, he pushed people for whom he had the highest expectations. If he was pushing you, he was investing in your success. He had the incredible gift to focus on people; to make them want to become the best versions of themselves.

Sam Gambhir’s departure from this world leaves us with deep sorrow yet profound gratitude that he made a vast impact on the world of science and humanity, to our school and department, and to us as individuals. It is difficult to put into words the sense of loss that we all feel at this time. Like many others with such impact and potential, Sam’s departure was too soon. We will all miss him dearly.

We will come together in the coming days to mourn Sam’s passing and share feelings and memories. Plans for a memorial ceremony will also be communicated soon. In the meantime, our thoughts and prayers remain with Aruna and all of the extended Gambhir family.

Garry Gold
David Larson
Yun-Ting Yeh

About Sam's Legacy

Below is a video honoring Sam as the recipient of the Stanford School of Medicine's Dean's Medal on July 17, 2020

Video from Tedx Talk

Video from SNMMI Benedict Cassen Prize 2018 (introduced at 33:00)

Video from SNMMI Cassen Prize Interview 2018

Gambhir Family

Sam, Milan and Aruna in Panama in December 2009

In Lieu of Flowers

Gifts in Memory of Dr. Sam Gambhir 

Thank you for your interest in making a gift to honor and remember Sanjiv Sam Gambhir, MD, PhD. The information below will provide you with a few details and options.

In lieu of flowers, the Gambhir family prefers donations to one of the areas listed below. The first three programs are at Stanford Medicine.

  • The Canary Center for Cancer Early Detection at Stanford (
    The Canary Center at Stanford’s mission is to discover and implement minimally invasive diagnostic and imaging strategies for the detection and prognostication of cancers at early, curable stages. The Canary Center is the first in the world to integrate research on both in vivo and in vitro diagnostics to deliver these tests, by housing state-of-the-art facilities and collaborative research programs in molecular imaging, proteomics, chemistry, cell and molecular biology and bioinformatics.
  • The PHIND Center at Stanford (
    The Precision Health and Integrated Diagnostics Center (PHIND) at Stanford is dedicated to longitudinal monitoring and improvement of overall human health on a lifelong basis. Currently, the field of healthcare is primarily focused on late-stage disease including treatments applied relatively late with suboptimal health outcomes. However, continued Stanford advancements in biology and technology are leading to the potential to understand disease risk, detect disease early and enable preventative interventions. This center aims to fundamentally revolutionize healthcare leading to better and more productive lives for individuals.
  • The Sanjiv Sam Gambhir Professorship in Translational Medicine at Stanford
    This is a permanent endowed professorship at the School of Medicine established in honor of Dr. Gambhir to support a faculty member conducting translational research in the Department of Radiology.
  • The Ben and Catherine Ivy Foundation (
    This is a separate non-profit that has the long-term goal to cure brain cancer. To donate online, go to the website and scroll down until you see the word DONATE. Click on the box and follow the instructions.

How to Make a Gift to Stanford

To donate online to any of the first three areas listed above (Canary, PHIND, Professorship):

Please go to Stanford’s medical giving website here (or and click Make A Gift. Complete the online giving form, specifying where you want to designate your gift and that your gift is in memory of Dr. Sam Gambhir.

To donate by check:

Please make your check payable to “Stanford University.” Include a note specifying where you want to designate your gift and that it is in memory of Dr. Sam Gambhir. Be sure to mention whether you would like us to send Dr. Gambhir’s family a notification letter. Stanford will not share the amount of the donation. Mail your gift to:

  Stanford University
    Development Services
    P.O. Box 20466
    Stanford, CA 94309-0466

To donate stock or give by wire transfer:

If you wish to contribute stock or make a gift via wire transfer, please click here for instructions.

For questions, or if you would like to discuss your gift with a member of the development team, please contact Erik Rausch at or Susan Schwartzwald at in the office of Medical Center Development.

Sam Gambhir

Share Your Memories of Sam or Sign Our Guest Book

Option to write a private message to the Gambhir Family is available.


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Tzung Hsiai wrote on August 29, 2020:
Dr. Sam Gambhir traveled at the speed of light. What he had accomplished could not be fathomed by any measures. The spirit of American dream is once again elevated because of Sam.
Michelle Chen wrote on August 24, 2020:
I was Sam’s assistant at UCLA. It was my first real job, and as a newbie, I made some mistakes. Sam never yelled or got mad at me. Instead, he would tell me what to do next or how to fix it. Even when he was so busy, he gave me his time and had taught me many things. He made me feel important. I looked up to Sam on a lot of things, he was my inspiration. I will miss you Sam.
Brian McDonald wrote on August 17, 2020:
Sam was a wonderful person, a scientist with incredible foresight and a gifted leader. He inspired many people and everyone who interacted with him was witness to his interpersonal skills.
It was a joy to engage as a thinking partner with Sam.
What a terrible loss for his family and for our world.
Shell Brownstein wrote on August 15, 2020:
Sandy was my roommate in medical school. Tom was too 🙂 Sam clearly was the older brother who was the trailblazer but Sandy's accomplishments clearly are hers alone. Many years have passed as I went to North Carolina for my residency and never left such that I've not stayed as connected as I would have hoped/probably done if I had stayed in California. Nonetheless, I just want you - specifically Sangeeta - to know I am still here for you, care for you and am so sorry your family continues to experience more loss than is quite frankly fair. Sam didn't realize he was a comet but turns out he was - burns bright/lights up the way and is gone too soon; he accomplished so much in such a relatively short time, his legacy is immortal.
Thinking of you and your family!
Jonathan Liu wrote on August 14, 2020:
Sam has always been a great encouragement to me in my career in biomedical imaging. As a new postdoc in the Molecular Imaging Program at Stanford (MIPS) with no prior experience in biology or medicine at the time (2005), Sam never made me feel like I didn't belong. He played a role in helping me to obtain my first postdoc fellowship through the Canary Foundation and American Cancer Society, and later took time out of his packed schedule to mentor me as I navigated faculty searches and my first NIH grants.

In recent years, I've developed an even greater appreciation for Sam's intellect, interpersonal skills, and amazing sense of humor as a member of a review panel that he chaired for the Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT). Those who have served on grant review committees know that they are often tedious and tiring, but with Sam as chair, our twice-a-year meetings were a joy to attend and a great educational experience. Sam was extremely proud of what was going on at Stanford and the entire Bay Area. If there were any breaks in the meeting due to technical issues, Sam would regale us with stories about the latest game-changing start-ups in the Bay, major investments and construction projects at Stanford, and research topics that he was working on. He would make us laugh with his witty comments while keeping us on-task. His ability to summarize a discussion and to articulate the concerns of the reviewers in a concise and eloquent way is something I have not seen in any other review panel. He did not bias the discussions but added his insights in a way that always helped to build consensus. Sam truly had a gift with people.

Sam, you have been a great role model for us all, and your legacy will live on through the lives of everyone you have touched !
Lesley Flynt wrote on August 14, 2020:
I am so deeply sorry for your loss. He was an exceptional man, and this is truly a huge loss for humanity.
Christine Keeling wrote on August 14, 2020:
The celebration of life for Sam was one of the most moving and exceptional memorials I have ever attended. It so well encapsulated the personal and professional life of this extraordinary human being. Thanks to all who made this possible and to Aruna for her courage to speak. Curt and I loved greeting Sam and Aruna at the annual radiology parties. He was always so genuine, funny, warm and talented, apart from his huge intellect. He made time for everyone and somehow achieved more than seemed possible for one, well-lived life. We miss you Sam!
Mathew ( Madhukar ) Thakur wrote on August 14, 2020:
Hi Sam,
I will cherish for ever all the pleasant interactions we have had, personal and professional. I will not forget an early morning call from you when Milan passed away and a long Sunday afternoon conversation we have had about your illness.
You will always remain a star brightening the skies in darkness. You have received numerous prestigious awards . I had the opportunity to recommend you for two of them and to introduce you to receive them.
Stay happy with Milan in the heavenly peace.
Mathew Thakur

Mathew Thakur
David Mankoff wrote on August 14, 2020:
Thanks to all who brought us a wonderful memorial to Sam today.

I feel very lucky to have known Sam for many years, dating back to the time we were both MD, PhDs students working on PET imaging analysis and instrumentation. Even back then, it was obvious that Sam was headed for greatness and that he would have a huge impact on science and medicine. And, even then, beyond his unequaled his brilliance, insight, and creativity, Sam’s humanity and generosity of spirit was equally apparent.

I think back fondly Sam’s visit to Penn a few years back as our honorary Radiology Department Pendergrass Lecturer. I remember his outstanding and entertaining lecture (yes, the smart toilet was part of it), but what I remember most about the visit is Sam’s interaction with everyone from senior leadership to our trainees and students with genuine warmth, generosity of spirit, and interest. The same essential qualities that all the speakers talked about today.

I feel very luck to have known Sam, and his positive impact on nuclear medicine, molecular imaging, and medicine in general will be felt forever. The breadth and depth of his contributions, already widely known, will be increasingly appreciated as time goes on.

Thank you, Aruna, for sharing Sam with us all. I hope the knowledge of the many colleagues, students, and patients that people Sam helped –– and all those in the field that loved and respected him - be of some comfort in this difficult time.
Lawrence Bssso MD wrote on August 14, 2020:
I am one Sam’s many admirers. It is very easy to admire him for his great professional stature but what impressed me the most about him was his genuine kindness, caring, and humility. I remember once at a formal gathering he broke away to say something very personal to ask me how I was doing with my teaching (with retirement from active practice I was teaching disadvantaged students). He asked “how could I help you ?” It’s easy to love Sam. He embodied the very meaning of the word because he did not ask for it himself he gave it to others.
Malik Juweid wrote on August 14, 2020:
My deepest sympathy to Sam’s family. Indeed he was a genius and a kind human being who encouraged me to go on in tough times. I wanted to spend a year working with him as part of a sabbatical granted for faculty at the University of Jordan but the tragedy of his death made that impossible. What a loss for the nuclear medicine community and the science at large! May God give courage to his wife for the loss of husband and son. As she said we will all follow in time.
Jongho Kim wrote on August 14, 2020:
My condolences to the family on the loss of Giant !
Fan Yang wrote on August 14, 2020:
I am a faculty of Stanford SOM. Though I never worked with Sam directly, I have heard many wonderful things about him from other colleagues. Thank you for sharing the celebration of his amazing life today. The stories from everyone are so touching, beautiful, and inspiring. Sam will continue to inspire us to be better versions of ourselves, to feed the good wolf in our hearts, and to be kind, caring and bring positive impacts to others and the world around us. His legacy lives on and on....
Christopher Contag wrote on August 14, 2020:
Sam felt that everyone he met was important, and he knew that each of us had incredible potential to change the future. Sam saw the best in each of us, and he worked tirelessly to ensure that we visualized, and then realized our individual greatness. Sam had the ability to see the future, whether visualizing the future of healthcare for humanity or helping a student see their future career. He could articulate that future so that each of us could share in this vision. He used his talent as a seer to drive scientific fields, set institutional standards for science, guide patient care, build careers and fundamentally change healthcare. While doing all of this for all of us, he dealt with some of the greatest challenges any human can face. Sam’s gentle ferocity in striving to improve human health and his passion of humanity are an inspiration for all of us.

Sam you are with us all, and you are still driving us to greatness.
Vijay Anne wrote on August 14, 2020:
Peace be with you.
Sindhuja Ramakrishnan wrote on August 14, 2020:
I had the privilege to work under Sam's wings for almost 5 years. He was the coolest boss I have ever worked with. Although he had a busy schedule, he always made time to talk with each of his lab members.

At the MIPS retreat at Santa Cruz, when everyone was busy toasting marshmallows, Sam was walking around chatting with everyone. Three years back, during the poster presentation for summer interns at the Canary Center, he was standing behind me to grab lunch. The nervousness and the feeling that Sam is standing behind you in line kicked in and I struck a conversation with him. He kept making jokes and that was one of the times I saw Sam as a friend, a colleague more than a boss.

Sam has always been a very warm and caring person. He not only mentored me in the scientific field, but also taught me several life lessons. If not for Sam, I would not be the person I am today.

Sam, I hope you will always be looking at us from above and guide us! You will be truly missed and I will never forget you! Your legacy will live on forever in our lives and in our hearts.
Jyotsna Rao wrote on August 14, 2020:
Being in India l did not have much time to spend with Dr Gambhir but our brief meetings were do fruitful in terms of collaboration and his mentorship. He was the driving force behind the formation of the Molecular imaging society of India. He had confidence in me and encouraged me constantly. He gave me an opportunity to visit Stanford University to give a grand rounds talk. During my serious illness a few years ago he was there for my family and me. Will cherish the memories of his Hyderabad visit where spoke to our medical and scientific communities. We have lost a brilliant mind and pioneer. Will miss him as a friend, guide and mentor. Dr Gambhir, you continue to inspire me.
Frank Lin wrote on August 14, 2020:
Dr. Gambhir's passing is not only the loss of a giant in the field of Molecular Imaging and Theranostics, but also the personal loss of a mentor and friend for me. He was such a prominent figure in the field that one wonders, what other breakthrough would have been achieved if he had been given more time, how many more lives he could have affected and changed for the better? Now that he has been taken untimely from us, it is left up to us, the people he has mentored and trained, to take up the mantle and continue his legacy through our work. Dr. Gambhir, please rest in peace. We will carry on the fight.
Tomomi W Nobashi wrote on August 14, 2020:
Dear Prof. Gambhir,

The most important harvest I gained at Stanford would be that I met you.
One day I hopped in your lab meeting secretly (actually invited by a colleague) and you asked me slowly, "Who are you?"
I explained how much I desired to do translational studies of immunoPET. From that day, I was enrolled in the wonderful immunoPET team and worked hard until flying back to Japan. You liked to have several jokes while I was having a serious presentation. And you pointed out very important tips for experiments.

You treated me as a decent lab member nevertheless I was the most peripheral part who can't even speak English well. Your warm personality was our motivation to continue hard work.
I will never forget your kindness. Please have a good rest, but see and encourage us from heaven once in a while.

Tomomi (visitor of 2017-2019)
Andy Loening wrote on August 14, 2020:
There are so many stories that can be used to encapsulate what an amazing person Sam was, how he touched so many people, how he achieved so much in his life, and how much we miss him. One story that comes to my mind, when I think about how Sam impacted me personally, goes back to my time as a graduate student in his lab. In an appropriately academic bent, the story is on… manuscript reviewing.

Sam, being the busy advisor he was, would occasionally pass out manuscript reviews to his trainees, to give us the first stab at critiquing a paper before he would create the final review. That Sam even did manuscript reviews amazed me given how many responsibilities he had, but as thankless as manuscript reviews seem, they are vital to the health and well-being of the scientific enterprise and that Sam did these exemplifies what a good citizen he was.

In any case, the first couple of times he gave me a manuscript to review, my graduate student mind would sharpen, my eyes would focus down on the text, and I would intellectually tear that thing apart like a weasel on a killing spree. I would proudly document all the manuscripts short-comings, the incorrectly done statistics, the poorly chosen assay, the missing control experiments, and of course the grammar, and present my kill to Sam as a nicely wrapped present, delighted in what a smart and successful graduate student I thought I was.

After the second or third review I helped out with, Sam sat me down for a minute and told me, in that very calm, reasoned, and rational voice of his that so clearly expressed that I had completely missed the purpose of the exercise: “you know…, it’s easy to find the negatives in a study, if you dig deep enough every manuscript has its limitations. What’s harder and more important is being able to recognize what is important in a study and why it deserves to be published”.

Tearing down is easier than building. Criticizing is easier than praising. Being dismissive is lazy, it takes greater energy and intellectual prowess to remain focused on the positives and continue building to the future. Sam was a master at finding the positives in all of us. He truly believed that each of us was a flower that just needed enough time, water, and soil, to bloom.

Stanford University School of Medicine | Department of Radiology