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Remembering Guy Zimmerman, MD

By Matthew Rondina, MD, Director, Molecular Medicine Program

Guy A. Zimmerman, MD, was a pioneer in the field of pulmonary medicine and cell biology. His recent passing leaves an indelible void in our scientific community. 

After receiving a Bachelor of Arts in Biology with a Humanities emphasis (Guy was an incredibly gifted writer) from Emory University, Guy then graduated Cum Laude from Baylor College of Medicine, followed by a Residency in Internal Medicine and a Fellowship in Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at the University of Utah. Always the learner, Guy went on to receive further subspeciality training in Anesthesiology at the University of Washington. He and his family then returned to Utah, where Guy joined the University of Utah Department of Internal Medicine Faculty in 1980. Very fortunately for us, Guy chose to remain at the University of Utah until he was awarded Emeritus status in 2019. Even after retiring, though, Guy remained engaged academically, continuing to collaborate and mentor numerous individuals around the world.

Guy Zimmerman, MD, talking to Anne Moon, MD, PhD
Guy Zimmerman, MD, in discussion with Anne Moon, MD, PhD. Credit: Stephanie Graff.

During his nearly 40 years as a faculty member at the University of Utah, Guy made key contributions to many departments and programs across our institution. He served as Director of Cardiovascular Pharmacology and Cell Biology Program at the Nora Eccles Harrison Cardiovascular Research & Training Institute (CVRTI) from 1984-1999, Director of the Program in Human Molecular Biology and Genetics or HMBG (now known as University of Utah Molecular Medicine Program, or U2M2) from 1999 to 2009, and Associate Chair of the Department of Internal Medicine from 2009-2019. 

As a physician-scientist, Guy was brilliant, and his contributions are innumerable. Guy’s scientific inquiries were based on his desire to answer the “big questions” in medicine, and he always encouraged those around him to do the same. He published more than 350 peer-reviewed manuscripts that have been cited more than 50,000 times and had an H-index of 121—evidence of the sustained and profound impact of Guy’s scientific discoveries. 

It is very difficult to select his most important contribution. Nevertheless, Guy’s work elucidating molecular mechanisms of leukocyte migration from the vasculature space into tissues is particularly notable. These discoveries were made collaboratively with Guy’s colleagues and mentees and were foundational for a number of subsequent discoveries in the field that continue today. Interestingly, as the story goes, the key experimental data for this discovery (published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation in 1985) was the unintended, but very fortuitous, result of a fishing trip. Guy’s election to both the American Society for Clinical Investigation in 1989 and the Association of American Physicians in 1995 also underscores his significant impact on the field. For many, Guy’s accomplishments may not have been immediately apparent given his humility. Guy never sought recognition for his accomplishments but rather always found fulfillment in the pursuit of knowledge, as well as promoting those he mentored and worked with.

While impressive, Guy’s legacy extends far beyond his impressive academic achievements; it is much more importantly defined by his remarkable qualities as a mentor, colleague, and friend. Guy’s commitment to the tripartite academic missions was unwavering, and he worked tirelessly to support research, education, and clinical care efforts across the University of Utah. He was often the first to arrive in the office and the last to leave, often trying to get that one last personal note sent before heading home to his family. 

Beautifully crafted, handwritten notes were Guy’s hallmark. These notes always conveyed his interest in the well-being and success of their recipients. Generosity and kindness flowed through every aspect of Guy's life, as he selflessly shared his time, energy, and expertise. These qualities were not only evident to his colleagues and trainees, but also to his patients where he provided compassionate, expert clinical care.

As we reflect on Dr. Zimmerman’s extraordinary life and legacy, we celebrate his remarkable achievements and the profound impact he had on us all. To honor him, we continue to make discoveries and teach others. A Celebration of Life will be held on July 13 from 9:30-11:30 AM MST at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts at the University of Utah G. W. Anderson Family Great Hall. More information is available at