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Obituary: Brian K. Suarez, professor of genetics in psychiatry, 72

Contributed to the understanding of complex illnesses' genetics

by Jim DrydenFebruary 2, 2018

Brian K. Suarez, PhD, an emeritus professor of psychiatry at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, died Jan. 23, 2018, of renal failure and vascular disease at his home in St. Louis. He was 72.

Suarez came to the university in 1974 as an instructor in the Department of Anthropology. He joined the School of Medicine faculty as an assistant professor of genetics in psychiatry in 1977, rising to the rank of professor in 1987. He became an emeritus professor in 2014.

“Brian was a member of the Department of Psychiatry for more than 40 years,” said Charles F. Zorumski, MD, the Samuel B. Guze Professor of Psychiatry and head of the department. “He was a well-respected human geneticist who made important contributions to our understanding of the genetics of complex illnesses, including psychiatric illnesses, substance-use disorders and prostate cancer. He also had strong, personal ties to the Midwestern Amish population and played a significant role in advancing the understanding of the genetics of medical disorders in that population.”

Suarez earned a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from San Fernando Valley State College in 1967, then went on to complete his master’s and doctoral degrees in anthropology at UCLA, earning his PhD in 1974.

An author on more than 130 peer-reviewed, scientific publications, Suarez studied families to help determine how genes could contribute to human disorders, from alcoholism to juvenile diabetes to cancer. His work influenced many in the field of genetics, according to collaborator Laura Jean Bierut, MD, the Alumni Endowed Professor of Psychiatry at Washington University. “Brian’s scientific passion was clear. He sought the truth in his research, and he had a major influence on many in the field of genetics, me included.”

Suarez is survived by his wife of 50 years, Susan Suarez; his children, Marion and Gary Suarez; a brother, Murray Suarez; two sisters, Marion (Scott) Leland and Patricia (Wayne) Crouch; and two grandchildren. A memorial service will be held Saturday, April 28, at Graham Chapel. The time of the service will be announced later.

Memorial contributions may be made in memory of Suarez to the National Kidney Foundation.