Bramson made sure research animals got excellent care

Paul Harlan “Cooky” Bramson, whose work in animal procurement and care was a crucial part of Pitt’s biomedical programs for 30 years, died April 24, 2022, at 80 in Murrysville.

Daniel J. Simons, faculty member in neurobiology in the School of Medicine, worked closely with Bramson for 12 years as chair of the University’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee.

“Dr. Bramson was a highly knowledgeable, scientifically schooled veterinarian,” Simons said. “For Paul, a program ensuring excellent animal care was a vital component of the University’s biomedical research and teaching activities, missions to which he was deeply committed. Paul’s good nature and abundant personal charm helped him guide Pitt’s animal-related research enterprise through a period of substantial growth and change during which Pitt’s accomplishments in health-related research rose to national prominence.”

Rich Henderson, associate vice chancellor for Finance Management in Health Sciences, remembered being the first “ ‘gray suit,’ as he liked to call me,” working in Bramson’s department beginning in 1991. “We quickly developed a great working relationship and a solid friendship. He was a kind and caring man, and he did everything that he could to help the employees in the department. The University was lucky to have a man like Paul working here for close to 30 years.”

“As a friend and veterinary colleague, I watched as Paul managed the University of Pittsburgh biomedical animal research program from the level of a mom and pop store upon his entry to the University in the early 1980s to one of the largest NIH-funded institutions in the country,” recalled Ed Klein, clinical associate professor emeritus of the medical school.

“Some of his major accomplishments included the planning and structural design of numerous new animal housing and use facilities, achieving full institutional credentialing in the Association for the Advancement and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care (the gold standard in independent accreditation of biomedical research institutions internationally) and helping develop and refine an Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee in 1985.”

Bramson, continued Klein, “was a staunch advocate and defender of all who worked under him, knowing most of his 100-plus employees by name and personally interacting with them as often as possible. While spending a career ushering Pitt into the forefront of biomedical research excellence, he remained a humble and genuine person, constantly working to better the lives of both the animals and personnel under his charge.”

Bramson was born Dec. 29, 1941, in Brooklyn, N.Y. He attended Colorado State University and the University of Illinois, where he got his veterinary doctorate as well as a master’s degree in biology and reproductive physiology.

Beginning in 1978, he worked at the Bushy Run Laboratory of Carnegie Mellon University for several years before moving to Pitt, where he was involved with animal procurement for Thomas Starzl’s pioneering liver transplant surgeries as well as the design of the animal housing in Pitt’s Biomedical Science Towers.

Prior to his retirement, he was the longest president of the Three Rivers Branch of the American Association of Laboratory Animal Science.

He is survived by his wife of 42 years, Toni Sue (Trout); children David (Kristen) Bramson and Heidi (Russ) Winslow; grandchildren Emily, Lucas, Ryan (Jessie) and Cody; brothers Robert (Ruth) and Philip (Kay); sister Ginger (Jimi) and many nieces and nephews.

Memorial gifts are suggested to the Pittsburgh Zoo Docent Program or the Murrysville Emergency Shelter Team, c/o Municipality of Murrysville, 4100 Sardis Road, Murrysville, PA 15668.

— Marty Levine