Daniel R. Mishell Jr., MD, a longtime professor and former chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, died May 4. He was 84.
“Daniel R. Mishell Jr., MD, had been a leader in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology for almost 40 years until his recent retirement.” said Laila Muderspach, MD, Chair of Obstetrics and Gynecology. “Dr. Mishell led us in so many ways — from department chair to research mentor to friend. He always generously shared his clinical insights, intellectual acumen and passion for women’s health. His pioneering work in family planning touched the lives of women all over the world.”
A memorial service was held in his honor at the Keck School of Medicine. A national and international pioneer in the fields of contraception, infertility and reproductive endocrinology related to menopause, Mishell was recruited to USC from UCLA in 1969 as a professor and went on to serve as chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Keck School and chief of professional services at Women’s and Children’s Hospital from 1978 to 2005. He was appointed the Lyle G. McNeile Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology in 1989. He remained a valued and highly respected member of the department until his retirement on April 4, 2016.
Mishell’s original research resulted in the development of the majority of devices and hormonal treatments used for contraception today. Other aspects of his research led to technologies that allowed women who desired pregnancy to more easily conceive. He worked in tandem with the Population Council’s International Committee for Contraception Research, to assist in the development of the copper IUD and Norplant, a long-lasting implantable contraceptive. Mishell conducted the first study of the use of steroid-impregnated vaginal rings for contraception. Over the years, he conducted numerous studies into new and improved forms of contraception, testing low-dose birth control pills and injectable and implantable contraceptives.
During his time at UCLA, Mishell performed the first immunoassays of human chorionic gonadotrophin in urine and serum, which revolutionized pregnancy testing. He also was the first who described serum gonadotropin and steroid patterns throughout the menstrual cycle, which allowed women to determine when they were most fertile and most likely to conceive. He also was one of the original clinical investigators for clomiphene citrate, the first medication to induce ovulation in infertile women, and the first who described the non-contraceptive health benefits of oral steroidal contraceptives.
While Mishell was renowned for his landmark contributions to contraception, infertility and reproductive endocrinology, when asked for an interview what he regarded as his greatest accomplishment, he pointed to USC.
“I’ve trained over 400 residents and made sure they would provide excellent health care in the field of Ob/Gyn,” he said at the time. “That’s what I’m most proud of.”
Mishell was also noted for his commitment to providing excellent medical care to the underserved and was noted as a particularly strong proponent of recruiting women to his field.
Mishell was the recipient of numerous prestigious honors, including being named as an honorary member of the Sociedad Mexicana de Nutricion y Endocrinologia, A.C., his election as Fellow ad eundem of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, and receipt of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society of Family Planning. After years of service to the institution, he was elected president of the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology from 1986 to 1990, and chairman of the same organization from 1990 to 1994. He also served as president for the Pacific Coast Fertility Society and the Society for Gynecologic Investigation, and served as advisor, board and council member for numerous national and international committees, task forces, and councils.
Mishell was editor-in-chief of the journal Contraception for more than 40 years, as well as the quarterly Dialogues in Contraception. He was an editor or associate editor of every major journal in the field. He published well over 350 scientific and clinical articles and chapters. He was one of the original four authors of the textbook Comprehensive Gynecology, as well as coauthor of a number of gynecologic textbooks and senior editor of Yearbook of Obstetrics and Gynecology for 16 years.
Mishell earned his bachelor and medical degrees from Stanford University, then went on to an internship at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, and residency training in internal medicine at Bellevue Hospital (Cornell University) and in obstetrics and gynecology at UCLA. He also had a research fellowship in reproductive endocrinology at Uppsala, Sweden. He performed his military service in the U.S. Air Force for two years in the midst of his medical training.
Mishell is survived by his wife, Carol, and his three children, Sandra, Daniel III and Tanya. In lieu of flowers, the family has requested donations to the Keck School of Medicine Daniel R. Mishell Jr., MD, Professorship. See https://keck.usc.edu/giving/danielmishell for more information.