Illness and death have dogged me…

I was in hospital for a month, the decent hospital but a bad time. The day I was discharged a good friend of mine died two thousand miles away and two days after I was discharged my beloved father died in the Connecticut Hospice after a brief unexpected illness. I am bereft and distraught, and don’t know what to do…Terrified that I cannot live or survive without the person who, for the last 7 years, seemed to me to keep me together. Not my twin (HAH!) not my other family members, but my father, who after 30 years of silence returned to me and spent 7 years trying and largely succeeding in “making up for lost time.” I will write more later but right now I have to get through the memorial service on March 24th (next Saturday).

Here is the official obituary which should come out today in various nation-wide papers.

My Father, Howard Spiro MD, who died March 11, 2012
Howard Spiro MD, professor emeritus at Yale Medical School, dead at 87 on March 11, 2012


Howard Marget Spiro, MD, 87, of New Haven and Madison died on March 11, 2012 at the Connecticut Hospice after a brief illness. Dr. Spiro was born in Boston, MA on March 23, 1924 to Thomas and Martha Spiro. He was raised in Newton, MA, attended Harvard College and Harvard Medical School and married his wife,  Marian, in 1951. He spent two years in the Army and subsequently moved to New Haven in 1954 where he was asked to establish and head the division of Gastroenterology at Yale Medical School. After writing a major textbook, Clinical Gastroenterology, Dr. Spiro became an internationally recognized clinician and travelled extensively, teaching other doctors not just the science but the art of clinical medicine.  In 1982, Dr. Spiro stepped down as Chief of Gastroenterology and took a sabbatical at Stanford’s Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences, a well-deserved respite which reminded him that physicians are above all human beings. After he returned to Yale in 1983 and founded Yale’s program on Humanities in Medicine, perhaps a natural move having majored in English in college, he wrote several books in which he attempted to bridge the divide between the humanities and clinical medicine. These books covered such diverse topics as the placebo effect, doctors’ experiences with their own illnesses, empathy in medicine and medical history. An active clinician and educator, Dr. Spiro continued to teach and see patients until he formally retired in 2009 at the age of 85.

Respected for his scholarship and admired for his optimism, Dr. Spiro was also known for his wit, maverick opinions and love of repartee. One notable if uncommon position he held was that knowledge of organic chemistry is unnecessary to enter medical school. He once claimed, “Neurobiologists are convinced they’ll find everything if they measure everything and chase down everything.  But will they find ambition, will they find greed?  How are we going to explain the seven deadly sins by the biology of the cell?” He will be missed not just by his family, his co-workers, his students and his patients, but by the international clinical community.

Dr. Spiro is survived by Marian, his wife of 61 years and his four children. He also leaves six grandchildren, a sister and two stepsisters and several nieces, nephews and cousins. [I took out their names for privacy’s sake]

A memorial service will be held at 11:00 on Saturday March 24, 2012 at the Unitarian Society of New Haven on 700 Hartford Turnpike, Hamden, CT.  A reception will be held at the same location following the ceremony. In lieu of flowers please make donations to the Howard Spiro Fund for Medicine and the Humanities at The Yale Medical School. This fund is dedicated to continuing Dr. Spiro’s dream of marrying the humanities and clinical medicine in order to improve patient care.



I will write more as soon as I am able, but for now I cannot do much more than alert you to why I have been absent lo these long 4-5 weeks. I promise to get back to writing, but I suspect that may not be for another week or two.


Thanks for your patience. I really appreciate it.

9 thoughts on “Illness and death have dogged me…”

  1. Oh・・・・I am so sorry for you loss. I’m sorry, My text is corrected.
    He should want to also see your sad face.→He does not want to also see your sad face.
    I’m sorry, Since I was poor at English, I did not notice.


  2. Dear Pam,

    Your father once complimented my father, Chief of Transplantation at Hartford Hospital. The compliment meant so much to my dad that he repeated it to me. My Dad had to like and admire the people who said nice things to him in order to give them any stock. I know my Dad thought highly professionally and personally of your Dad.

    I hope too that relations with my Dad might get better in time. This illness has separated us a bit. He is much closer to my non-ill siblings. You are really lucky for the quality time you had with your Dad, even after an absence. Please remember the good. I am sorry for your loss. One person alone can mean so much to us, a lifeline in the midst of torment. I think you a strong person, a bright light. Grieve as long and hard as you need to. But you will survive your loss.

    I’m thinking of you,
    Karen Sorensen


  3. My name is Koro who lives in Oita Prefecture in Japan. I have a mental disease(Schizophrenia).
    Please take out energy. Your father has rendered for everybody’s smiling face. He should want to also see your sad face. I am waiting to return to a blog.


  4. Dear Pam–Your father was a truly remarkable person, one of those who left the world a better place. He cannot be replaced. I will look for the obit in my paper. Thanks for letting us know.

    Best to you


  5. Dear Pam,

    I am so sorry for you loss. Please take care of yourself and know that you are in my thoughts and prayers.


  6. Pammy, I do not have your email which is why you haven’t heard from me. I am so deeply sorry about the passing of your dad. He was a great man who was admired by all who had the pleasure of knowing him as their professor and colleague, but he was dearly loved by his family. Having lost my father, I know how difficult this must be for you. But, it is amazing how very much alive a person can remain in your heart. We will see you on the 24th. xxxooo, Cousin BJ


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