Gordon L. Snider, MD, 1922-2013

Gordon L. Snider, MD
  Gordon L. Snider, MD

By Jerome S. Brody, MD, David M. Center, MD, and Joseph P. Mizgerd, ScD, of the Boston University School of Medicine

ATS Past President Gordon L. Snider, MD, a distinguished Amberson Lecturer who established Boston University's Pulmonary Section and greatly contributed to COPD and Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency research, died after a long illness on June 8. He was 91.

Born and raised in Toronto, Dr. Snider received his medical degree from the University of Toronto and completed his internship at Toronto General Hospital. He served in the Canadian Army Medical Corps, and later trained in medicine at the Bronx Hospital in New York and the Lahey Clinic in Boston, pathology at Mass Memorial Hospital in Boston, and in pulmonary medicine at the Trudeau Sanatorium in New York.

Dr. Snider's career in academia began in 1949 when he signed on as the assistant director of the Chest Department at Michael Reese Hospital in Chicago. He served as chief of pulmonary at Chicago Medical School from 1961 to 1965, and became chief of pulmonary at the Milwaukee VA Hospital in 1966.

In 1968, he was asked to create a new section of pulmonary medicine in the department of internal medicine at Boston University School of Medicine and was named chief of this as well as the Boston Veterans Affairs Medical Center. During this period, he created the first small animal models of emphysema (with pancreatic elastase) and pulmonary fibrosis with bleomycin. In 1986, he became chief of the medical service at the Boston VA and vice-chair of medicine at Boston University.

He teamed with Edward Gaensler, a thoracic surgeon and physiologist, and Carl Franzblau, a connective tissue biochemist and subsequent chair of the BU Department of Biochemistry, to develop a research program in lung cell and molecular biology and built an academic pulmonary training program at Boston University. He recruited Jerome Brody, MD, from the Physiology Department at the University of Pennsylvania, and David Center, MD, a BUSM graduate who trained allergy and immunology at Harvard. They merged the pulmonary programs at the three BUSM hospitals and, led by Gordon, built one of the preeminent training programs in the U.S., which attracted research trainees from around the world.

The author of 280 clinical and scientific papers, 6 books, and 45 book chapters, Dr. Snider furthered the understanding of chest medicine, pulmonary physiology, connective tissue biochemistry, medical ethics, the history of medicine, the importance of basic research and molecular biology in understanding pulmonary disease, and health  care and ethical issues. He wrote for physicians, trainees, scientists, patients, and the public.

Dr. Snider was an early advocate of clinical pulmonary function tests and the role of fiberoptic bronchoscopy, and was an innovator in developing animal models to explore the biology of emphysema and pulmonary fibrosis. Early on, he recognized and championed the application of basic science to understanding the pathogenesis of lung disease. His last paper was "Only Cell and Molecular Biology Can Lead to an Understanding of Pathogenesis of Lung Disease," published in 2004 in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Dr. Snider was an important contributor to the NIH Lung Division programs and was instrumental in developing and guiding the scientific and research programs of the Alpha-1 Foundation and the American Thoracic Society. Dr. Snider served as ATS president from 1986-87, and presented the Amberson Lecture "Emphysema: The First Two Centuries and Beyond" at the 1992 ATS International Conference.

Dr. Snider was a consummate teacher, a master of the fine points of reading chest X-rays, using his vast clinical experience in discussing cases during grand rounds, teaching the logic of clinical medicine to students, trainees, and faculty, and providing scholarly clinical consultations for complex patients sent to his clinic from around the world. His ability to extemporaneously discuss the nuances of difficult clinical cases was legendary. 

He influenced the lives of his patients, students, trainees and through his administrative activities and his numerous publications informed and educated countless others. His passing will be mourned by all whose lives he touched and enriched.

Dr. Snider is survived by his wife, Sally Everett, three children, and their families.

To honor his memory, the Boston University School of Medicine is establishing the Gordon L. Snider, MD, Memorial Lectureship on "The Impact of Basic Science on Pulmonary Medicine."

To make a gift in Dr. Snider's memory to this fund, please forward checks made out to Trustees of Boston University with a memo indicating "Snider Lectureship," to Kate DeForest, BUSM Development Office, 72 E. Concord Street, L219, Boston, MA 02118. Please contact Ms. DeForest directly at 617-638-4969 or kated@bu.edu with questions or for more information.