1935 - 2009
Thomas E. Andreoli, MD
January 9, 1935 - April 14, 2009
Thomas E. Andreoli, M.D., passed away on April 14, 2009. Dr. Andreoli’s meteoric career in academic medicine is outlined in detail in published obituaries (see New York Times April 19, 2009). He was the recipient of awards and honors too numerous to mention, but his legacy is far greater than the many awards and honors that he received. Dr. Andreoli was a long-time member of the Southern Society for Clinical Investigation. It was following his suggestion that I became a member of the Southern Society for Clinical Investigation, that he nominated me for membership in the Southern Society.
He was an honors graduate of St. Vincent College. He was proud of his St. Vincent heritage where he learned the importance of focus, dedication, logic, and hard work. He went on to graduate with honors from Georgetown University School of Medicine in 1960. He trained in medicine and nephrology at Duke University and at the National Institutes of Health. This early training solidified his interest in membrane biology and membrane transport phenomena, particularly water permeation through cells and cellular networks.
Dr. Andreoli was the Director of the Division of Nephrology at the University of Alabama Birmingham, where I was recruited to my first faculty position. Dr. Andreoli became a legend in his own program. He was a demanding clinician and a driven and brilliant scientist. In the early 1970s, he was routinely extrapolating molecular phenomena to the pathophysiology of disease.
His famous teaching rounds, known as “lambda over mu” conferences, were approached with trepidation by the house staff because he demanded a high level of audience participation and deductive reasoning from all that attended. Although frightening to the young clinically-oriented house staff, these conferences were cherished by those who appreciated his depth of scientific insight so early in the molecular era of pathophysiologic-based disease.
Although the success of his research career and the numerous accolades he received were spectacular, those of us who worked with him and knew him personally felt his contributions were even greater in other areas. He was an effective role model for young academician-scientists, and his ideas for program development were beyond insightful for the time. It was his idea to create the Nephrology Research and Training Center at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Andreoli’s plan was much more than a new title. He envisioned a revolutionary restructuring of the clinical nephrology division in the Department of Medicine by integrating basic scientists from far-reaching disciplines (imaging and biophysics to name 2 examples) into the clinical division. Perhaps, the idea of such integration was not completely original, but of the level of integration he achieved was a new paradigm. He was uniquely effective in making this new Center work. He made each person engaged in the mission feel that their role was important, and when recruiting, he solicited opinions from the existing faculty about how the candidate would fit with the program as a scientist and as an individual. The levels of collaboration of basic scientist investigators and clinical faculty were extraordinary. It was exciting to see basic scientists regularly attend clinical conferences, where the presentations would raise their interest to the level of avid participation.
Dr. Andreoli’s greatest legacy is the people that worked with him or trained with him, a long list of scientific and medical experts who continue to be engaged in academic activities throughout American medicine. Indeed, it was one’s good fortune to land in such a place and have the opportunity to be trained or mentored by Tom Andreoli.
Dr. Andreoli will be dearly missed by his family, friends, and scientific collaborators throughout the world. Students, trainees, or scientists who will never experience his analytical dissection of a scientific or a clinical problem have been deprived of a unique educational experience.
David W. Ploth, MD
The American Journal of the Medical Sciences