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. 


Terry will be remembered as a brilliant scientist and energetic collaborator, for sure. However, I will remember him most for the gracious and nurturing way in which he welcomed me, and so many other investigators, into the field. As a young surgeon entering transplantation in the 1990's, I saw Terry as a thought leader and someone from whom I would want to learn. What made him stand out from others was his approachability and expressions of genuine enthusiasm when engaged in a scientific discussion. His appeal was magnetic, and I think it is why he not only derived great insights, but catalyzed them in others. We should all seek to carry some of Terry's fire with us, and pass the torch to the next generation of investigators on his behalf.

When I was a faculty member at the University of Pittsburgh in 1996, I had the good fortune of working in Terry's lab for 2 months. I had met Terry at a number of transplant meetings, but there was no reason that he should be gracious enough to allow me to spend time in his lab. He would gain little from allowing me to take up his time and bench space for 2 months, but he was gracious and a gentlemen. He also fostered an amazing group of people in his lab, and I remember Martha Pavlakis particularly. This experience was the stimulus for me to write an R01 to study lymphocytes obtained from the BAL of lung transplant patients, which was funded. But I always appreciated the opportunity that Terry Strom gave me to be part of his team, if only for that short period of time.
Gilbert Burckart, Pharm.D., Associate Director for Pediatrics, Office of Clinical Pharmacology, US Food and Drug Administration.

Much will be written about Terry Strom the scientist, however, as brilliant as he was, he was much more a mensch. Listening to Terry lecture was much more like a conversation. The ease of delivery of complex ideas was a hallmark of Terry’s teaching.

He always had time to meet a have a personal discussion years after I left the Brigham. Though encounters were sporadic, Terry always made it seem like we had just met last week. As a physiology fellow, Terry had no reason to befriend me but Terry wanted to make everyone feel part of the Brigham family.

While Terry was a superb teacher and a role model for scientists, he was much more a model of a friend and human being. He sponsored a wine seminar on Friday afternoons where the topics were cheap reds, cheap whites and cheap pinks. The fellows had to provide bottles of wine less than $4 (1978 prices). The fellows quickly discovered where Terry bought. Our selections always were chosen after asking “Would Terry Strom drink this?” Terry would talk about our wine then provide a better wine. These were valuable bonding time for the fellows and investigators who attended. We were doing much more than drinking wine. Terry was forming a family of scientists.

He mentored many great scientists, but more importantly, he taught civility, curiosity, and inspired all to be more than they thought they could be.

Terry was one of the kind. Special, kind, brilliant. I loved all of our interactions whether professional or personal. Terry and I started as collaborators, and developed lasting friendship. He will always inspire me for his ability to process complex information, design paths forward. I will forever miss his humor, eclectic knowledge of wines, good food, and travel. Many people can perhaps be replaced, but I don’t think Terry can. I miss you my friend.

I was deeply saddened to hear of Terry's passing: "I loved the guy". He was my muse and became a friend- a privilege I will always hold dear.
I first new Terry at the beginning of my career in transplantation in the mid 1980's. He was the colleague I called whenever I needed help. His was the lecture I would never miss; the wisdom I would long to gain.
Terry was a prince of medicine. He embodied all the characteristics of the renaissance medical man: a brilliant researcher; a fantastic teacher; a superb clinician; and most of all a profoundly decent human being-a mensch among men.
The best way to honor his life and career will be for us all to emulate, the best way we can, those characteristics that we found so admirable.
May his memory be a blessing to us all.
Gabe Danovitch

Like others, I am deeply saddened by Terry's passing and just finished a Retrospective, which will be published in Transplantation shortly. As one of his trainees and worked with him very closely for almost 16 years, I reflected a lot, often asking myself the question- what makes Terry so special, that his passing has touched so many of us?
Here is what i concluded in the Retro- Terry was bigger than life and his career was absolutely unparalleled in transplant medicine. His unique set of talents and expertise combined with enthusiasm, optimism, and dedication made him a gifted scientist, a special mentor, and a beloved physician. Terry’s beliefs, contributions and achievements, as well as the extraordinary impact he had on the field, will live on and will continue to inspire us.

My favorite memories of this wonderful and brilliant man was the way he cared for patients on rounds. I was privileged to have him as my attending on both general nephrology and transplant as a clinical fellow at the Brigham. Long before it was fashionable, he would always sit on the edge of the patients bed and take their BP as part of every visit!
The patients always appreciated such a personal touch and appreciated his kindness and empathy. Not just a great scientist, but also a wonderful clinician!!!

The debt I owe Terry Strom could never be calculated in dollars and cents. I had the honor to work with him as a resident, clinical renal fellow and and directly as a research fellow. Terry was the ultimate mentor as well as role model. I never has an interaction with him without gaining knowledge. As a role model I saw Terry as a renaissance man - a superb scientist, teacher, physician and humanitarian. He enjoyed life to the fullest and shared his love of wine, food, literature, art and science with everyone freely. He is deeply missed and he will always be of blessed memory a true mensch.

Deeply saddened by loss of a beloved friend. It all began with a door being opened........Terry shared (confessed) later his view - he had opened his door to a whimsical bearer of an idea worth testing. Within weeks a new immune checkpoint was proven (LIF versus IL-6): for myself a new life began. And Terry will always be part of me. Big enough, strong enough, generous enough .......nothing can capture the hugeness of Terry. Tears of sadness mingle with tears of laughter recalling quips that set the aisles roaring.

I first met Terry in August 1987 while visiting Boston. In my one-hour interview with him for the postdoctoral position, we spoke about everything, except science. We argued about the city that has the best restaurants, about Middle East peace, and so on. When I asked him about when we are to discuss science, he said: there is no need. I want to see the personal side of you. That was Terry: he focused more on the human side rather than the productive side of his group. And for the next 30 years after leaving his lab, I knew I could always count on his support. He was my friend, not only my boss.

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