McGovern Center mourns the loss of Rabbi Sam Karff

With a profound sense of loss, the McGovern Center mourns the death of Rabbi Sam Karff, one of the founders of the Program on Health, Humanities, and the Human Spirit—the precursor to the McGovern Center.

Sam was one of the most distinguished rabbis of his generation. In Houston, he was an influential community activist, working together on many projects with Reverend Bill Lawson and Archbishop Joseph Fiorenza.

Before coming to UTHealth in 1999, Sam was Senior Rabbi of the Reform Jewish Congregation, Temple Beth Israel. As a faculty member at McGovern Medical School, Sam’s teaching focused on the relational aspects of the doctor-patient relationship. Sam was co-creator of the Sacred Vocation Program, a training program for hospital workers and physicians-in-training that is now required in several residency programs. Sam believed deeply that all members of a patient’s health care team are part of a sacred vocation because we have the opportunity to heal and to make each person feel honored and nurtured.

Sam Karff leaves a deep and abiding legacy in Houston, across the nation, and in our community. He was a prolific author and voracious reader, whose keen intellect and gentle spirit made him a tremendously effective speaker and teacher. Sam was irreplaceable, and we will miss him. We are inspired to carry on his work.