In Memoriam: Dr. Terry Strom
On December 20, 2017, we said goodbye to Terry Strom, a brilliant member of the transplant community and the first past-president of the American Society of Transplant Physicians (predecessor of the AST). Like so many of you reading this post, I considered Terry a personal friend for many years and enjoyed his endless zeal, insights, and candid (and refreshingly non-politically correct) approach to life. He leaves a large void in our field that is not easily measured.
Dr. Strom was the recipient of the AST’s Lifetime Achievement Award, our Society’s highest honor. He touched so many of us, as a colleague, mentor, and friend. To honor Dr. Strom, we asked two of his close friends and colleagues to share their memories in this blog post.
We encourage you to read these stories and to share your own memories in the comments.
In every religion, there is variation of the aphorism that one must leave the world better than one finds it - Terry Barton Strom - our brilliant colleague and my dear friend has most certainly not only enriched the field of immunobiology and transplantation but also stimulated each of us to be better individuals.
On the first day of my fellowship at the then Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, I called Terry Strom to seek his permission to return to Detroit Children’s Hospital to attend to my 9-year old nephew who got re-admitted for a post-operative complication following total correction of tetralogy of Fallot. I was deeply concerned about making this request on my very first day of fellowship. I have not forgotten his most humanistic response that still brings tears to my eyes: “Please go and come back only when you feel comfortable.”
Luck plays a major role in all our lives. I was most fortunate that Terry Strom was not only my brilliant and nurturing mentor but also my most cherished friend. In the laboratory headed by the gentleman-scholar, Charles Bernard Carpenter, Terry Strom provided the spark and was a stellar role model for taking the science seriously but not himself. His clarity of thought, the complementary eloquence and the grace with which he treated others were inspirational for me and much admired by one and all. Indeed, at any national or international meeting, if one saw an admiring crowd of scientists in the hallways, Terry Strom was likely to be at the center of the crowd.
My professional career was clearly ignited and sustained by Terry Strom, and he was the “invisible hand” behind my career progression. One of the greatest joys of an investigative career is to collaborate with individuals of high intellect, and it was an unmitigated pleasure to collaborate with Terry who had the rare combination of scientific rigor and generosity of spirit.
Terry Strom was blessed with a wonderful family. I join Margot Strom, Adam, Rachel and their spouses and children in mourning the loss of this extraordinary individual.
Written by Manikkam Suthanthiran
Stanton Griffis Distinguished Professor of Medicine
Weill Cornell Medical College
Chief, Department of Transplantation Medicine
New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center
Meeting Terry Strom changed my life. It was during my junior residency at Tufts New England Medical Center, and I was encouraged by Dr. Madias to interview at different programs around Boston for my renal fellowship. I went into my interview with Terry Strom at the Beth Israel Hospital, thinking I would be a clinical fellow in general nephrology at Tufts. I emerged from our conversation convinced I wanted to be a transplant nephrologist and do a research fellowship at BIH. And that’s exactly what I did. Under his guidance and mentorship, I spent four years in his lab exploring the science of gene expression analysis in kidney transplant rejection. I was able to build on that foundational exposure and education to the rest of my career.
Terry was a magnetic person, fascinating to speak with – his interests and intelligence went far beyond immunology and transplantation. We had many conversations about religion, politics, history, and wine. His enthusiasm for the education of transplant nephrologists around the globe was infectious, and I have friends all over as a result of our collaboration through the years.
In 1999, I returned to the newly merged Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and assumed Terry’s title as medical director of kidney and pancreas transplantation. I also assumed the clinical care of many of his patients, who have remained thankful to him for his wonderful medical care and lifelong advocacy for their health. Although the world thinks of Terry as a stellar researcher and scientific innovator, I also know the side of him that he played down. Terry was a wonderful, knowledgeable and caring clinician. He often joked about how he had forgotten his clinical skills, but nothing could be further from the truth. His clinical acumen and kindness with his patients was just another side of him that drew people to him. His obituary said that Terry was “larger than life.” He embraced so many people and causes that it was sometimes hard to get the full picture of who he was.
He had much more to give the world and was excited about his plans for the future. His enthusiasm and energy sustained him and those around him almost to the end, such that we are left in shock that he is gone. I am not sure I ever adequately thanked Terry for the pivotal role he played in my early career and can only now convey those thanks to his wife Margot and their children Adam and Rachel. May his memory be eternal.
Written by Martha Pavlakis
Medical Director of Kidney and Pancreas Transplantation
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
A past President of AST, Manikkam (Suthan) Suthanthiran is the Stanton Griffis Distinguished Professor at Weill Cornell Medicine and Founding Chair of the Department of Transplantation Medicine at The New York Presbyterian Hospital-Weill Cornell Medicine. His research laboratory’s current focus is on the development of noninvasive biomarkers of allograft status.
Dr. Pavlakis is the Medical Director of kidney and pancreas transplantation at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School. She is the current co-chair of the AST education committee and the region 1 representative to the UNOS Kidney Committee.
Dr. Strom will not be forgotten by the transplant community. Please leave your memories and thoughts in the comments section of this post.