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NIH Record - National Institutes of Health

NIAMS Remembers Scientist Emeritus Plotz

Dr. Paul Plotz, who dedicated nearly four decades of service to science at NIH, passed away on Jan. 13 at age 86 after a long illness. He was a world-renowned rheumatologist, immunologist and researcher known internationally as an expert in myositis, an inflammatory muscle disease and rare autoimmune condition. 

Plotz sits with his arms folded atop a surface that is out of the frame. He wears glasses and the sleeves of his shirt are rolled up past his elbows.

Scientist Emeritus Dr. Paul Plotz

Photo: Rhoda Baer

After serving in a variety of leadership roles, including as chief of the Arthritis and Rheumatism Branch at the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), and NIAMS acting scientific director and acting deputy director, Plotz retired from NIH in 2011. He also was senior advisor to then-NIH Deputy Director for Intramural Research Dr. Michael Gottesman. 

As a scientist emeritus at NIAMS, Plotz was awarded the 2013 Presidential Gold Medal from the American College of Rheumatology (ACR), which recognizes outstanding achievements in rheumatology over an entire career and is the highest award ACR bestows.

A fourth-generation physician, Plotz conducted groundbreaking immunology and muscle disease research and was instrumental in advancing understanding of autoantibodies, autoimmune disease and inflammatory muscle diseases. Among the many advances he accomplished, Plotz helped redefine how physicians think about and manage myositis, which helped lead to the first clinical trials in the field for people with the disorder. 

Early in his career, he worked to advance understanding of systemic lupus erythematosus, an autoimmune condition, as well as autoantibodies and other components of the immune system, greatly contributing to what is known about disease mechanisms in autoimmune disorders. He later investigated clinical, immunologic and genetic aspects of several muscle diseases. Read more about his work at

Plotz earned his undergraduate and medical degrees from Harvard University and completed a residency at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. He joined NIH in 1965 as a clinical associate in the Arthritis and Rheumatism Branch at the National Institute of Arthritis and Metabolic Diseases (now NIAMS).

He will be remembered as a loving husband, father, mentor and friend, as well as an accomplished scientist with a lifelong commitment to and passion for human rights and volunteerism. 

Survivors include his wife of 60 years, Judith; sons John and David; and his extended family. 

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