University of Minnesota

Stallones’ Odyssey-Summer 1963

Reuel “Stony” Stallones, epidemiologist at UC Berkeley, served as consultant to the National Heart Institute in summer 1963 on a wide-ranging odyssey to Hawaii, Japan, and the Malay Peninsula to evaluate existing Institute studies and the feasibility and importance of other collaborations. The major issue was the readiness of the recently established Honolulu Heart Program, and the interest and competence of the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission (ABCC) in Japan to undertake a collaborative study comparing mainland Japanese men with Japanese migrants to Hawaii and to the San Francisco Bay area. The study was designed to examine sociocultural effects of Western assimilation on CVD risk and rates among migrants in ethnically similar populations.Japanese migrants were assumed to be an ethnic group because of the rarity of intermarriage with other cultures.   

Stallones reported positively on the feasibility of what would soon become the NIHONSAN Study, while he diplomatically achieved the support of the established U.S.-Japan ABCC, of Japanese university leaders  (including Noboru Kimura, already collaborating on the Seven Countries Study), and the Honolulu Heart Study staff. Stony had his own plans for Berkeley to add the California Japanese-American Isei-Nissei comparison. 

The results of NIHONSAN, showing progressively higher heart attack rates going East and lower stroke rates going West are well documented. Curiously, Stallones’s name is absent from all author lists, a fact not explained by his having left Berkeley in the late 1960s to establish the new School of Public Health at Houston, Texas. 

This personal journal, obtained from Stony’s epidemiologist daughter Lorann Stallones, provides clear evidence of her father’s central role in establishing this iconic study of “nature versus nurture.” H. Blackburn

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