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Posted on March 6, 2016 | 1:10 p.m.

Dr. Clarence M. Agress of Santa Barbara, 1912-2016

Source: Agress Family

Dr. Clarence M. Agress passed away February 24, 2016, at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital. He was 103.

Born in Knoxville, Tennessee, on March 10, 1912, to Jennie Bain Agress and Max Agress, he grew up in Dallas, Texas, and graduated as high school valedictorian. After graduating from Harvard, he was awarded Alpha Omega Alpha, the medical honor society, in his junior year of medical school at the University of Texas. In his fifth year of training at Los Angeles County Hospital, he was asked to be Chief Resident in Medicine.

In World War II, Dr. Agress volunteered as part of the Army’s 38th Evacuation Hospital and spent 2½ years in the China-Burma-India theater. As a specialist in tropical diseases, he wrote the first papers on Mite Typhus and Atabrine poisoning.

Discharged as a major, he was asked by the world renowned Dr. Myron Prinzmetal to join his practice in Los Angeles, California. This was the beginning of his care for Hollywood’s most famous. His first two patients were Lana Turner and William Randolph Hearst. His client list went on to include Peter Sellers, Steve McQueen, James Mason, Ann Baxter, Gov. Pat Brown, Louis Armstrong, George C. Scott, Quincy Jones, Judy Garland, Elizabeth Taylor, Cornel Wilde and so many others. He even owned a yacht with Walter Matthau.

Dr. Agress was a charter member of the American College of Cardiology, founded the world-respected Department of Cardiology at Cedars-Sinai Hospital, and established the first Coronary Care Unit on the West Coast.

In his research lab, he formulated the first chemical test for a heart attack, the Transaminase Test. He was acknowledged by the American Heart Association as the research doctor responsible for thrombolysis, dissolving clots out of obstructed heart arteries. His discovery was the basis of today’s treatment of acute heart attack that saves countless lives.

During the Apollo phase of the NASA space program, Dr. Agress was funded to invent the heart monitor that astronaut Neil Armstrong wore when he walked on the moon.

Aside from nearly 100 published medical articles, Dr. Agress wrote Energetics, one of the first books to show the salutary results of exercise for heart patients. It also promoted what is known today as interval training.

A true Renaissance man, Dr. Agress painted beautifully and kept his artist studio in the garden. A wonderful story teller, he wrote 10 novels. He loved to travel, attended the Olympics in Sydney, Australia, at 88, and went on his third safari at age 97. He sang and carved, gardened and cooked. He was an excellent golfer with a perfect swing.

At the age of 88, Dr. Agress retired and at the age of 89 moved to Santa Barbara, California, with his wife, Joan.

Two wives and his sister preceded him in death. He is survived by his wife; his two daughters, Carol (David Zaslow) and Edith (Tom Buie); four grandchildren, two of whom are doctors; and six great-grandchildren.

He is greatly admired, greatly loved, greatly missed.

His wife, Joan, wishes to thank the people who gave him extraordinary and respectful care these last 18 months: Carl Lopez, Julio Mendez, Francisco Mendez and Rafael Perez. She also wants to acknowledge the compassionate, intelligent, diligent care of the Cottage Hospital third-floor nursing staff.

A private tribute for Clarence Agress will be held in the spring.


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