Murder of UCSF nuclear medicine chief stuns community

May 20, 2005

Dr. Robert J. Lull, chief of nuclear medicine at the University of California, San Francisco and head of nuclear medicine at San Francisco General Hospital, was stabbed to death May 19.

Dr. Robert J. Lull, chief of nuclear medicine at the University of California, San Francisco and head of nuclear medicine at San Francisco General Hospital, was stabbed to death May 19.

His personal assistant found Lull in the foyer of his San Francisco home on Thursday afternoon, according to San Francisco police. No motive nor suspect was announced immediately.

"This is a great personal and professional loss," said Dr. Mathew Thakur, president of the Society of Nuclear Medicine. "He was a champion for the society and a dedicated mentor for young members."

In the SNM, Lull was the main advisor to the Young Professionals Committee. Dr. Thomas Miller, chair of the American Board of Nuclear Medicine, said he was impressed with Lull's dedication to the next generation.

"The young people had nothing but respect and admiration for him," Miller said.

Lull, 64, had served on the ABNM for two years and was rapidly becoming a leader on the board. He rose to chair of the credentials committee, one of the most important and challenging jobs, Miller said. The board recently chose him to take on the top job as chair of the examination committee, which he would have assumed in a year.

"He was just continuing his illustrious career," Miller said. "Our board feels his loss. He was a friendly, pleasant, delightful person. He clearly enjoyed life."

Lull had been chief of nuclear medicine at UCSF since 1990 and was the director of the resident training program. He was the first member of the San Francisco General Hospital faculty to head the San Francisco Medical Society. In 1992, he served as president of the American College of Nuclear Physicians.

According to a UCSF Web site, he was working on a new way to localize and quantify hemorrhage in the bowel and elsewhere with Tc-99m-red blood cell scintigraphy. As president of the San Francisco Medical Society, he lectured in 2004 on the implications of possible nuclear terrorism.

Dr. Abass Alavi, chair of nuclear medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, was to see his friend and colleague in Vancouver Island in June at the upcoming meeting of the ABNM. Lull and Alavi had been friends for over 25 years.

"Early in our careers, he would call to congratulate me on the work I had done in GI bleeding," Alavi said. "He got involved comparing various techniques available. We used to talk about these."

Alavi said Lull was very respectful of others but also very critical when the right questions needed to be asked.

"We will remember him for his intellect and commitment to the field," he said.

Lull was divorced and had two grown sons. He was last seen Wednesday afternoon attending a medical appointment, according to police.

A USCF spokesperson issued as preliminary statement saying the entire university community is saddened by his loss.

Lull earned his medical degree at Albany Medical College of Union University in 1966. He completed his internship and residency at Brooke General Hospital in San Antonio and his nuclear medicine residency at William Beaumont General Hospital in El Paso in 1972.