Obituary: Galen Toews

Galen B. Toews, MD

Galen B. Toews, MD, a longtime ATS member and pioneer of lung immunology, died on October 12 at the age of 65. Dr. Toews led the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at the University of Michigan Health System for nearly 25 years before stepping down in September 2011 due to illness.

“Dr. Toews was one of the first scientists to describe the locations and functions of what we now know as dendritic cells, as well as how they differed immunologically from alveolar macrophages,” said Theodore J. Standiford, MD, professor of medicine and interim chief of UM’s Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine. “He was a skilled clinician and exceptional role model as both a scientist and educator. He not only made excellence in patient care a cornerstone of his own practice, but built a division which is similarly devoted to high-quality clinical care and delivery.”

After earning his medical degree from the University of Oklahoma in 1971, Dr. Toews completed his internship and residency in internal medicine at Parkland Memorial Hospital. He spent a year in Louisiana serving as a physician in the U.S. Army before returning to Dallas to do a fellowship in pulmonary medicine at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, where he later joined the faculty. In 1987, Dr. Toews left UTSMC for Michigan to become chief of UMHS’s Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine. Over the years, he held a number of positions at the university and the Ann Arbor VA Hospital, serving at various times as both acting chief of the VA’s pulmonary service and associate dean for research at the medical school.

His colleagues remember him as a passionate, committed mentor who strived for excellence in research, education, advocacy and clinical care. Over the course of his career, he published more than 200 peer-reviewed manuscripts, 47 book chapters and 275 conference abstracts on pulmonary diseases. 

“Galen was such an important mentor to us,” said fellow ATS member Bethany Moore, PhD, who collaborated with Dr. Toews for nearly 15 years. “He recruited almost all of the current pulmonary faculty at Michigan and took the time to teach us how to think critically and write effectively. He valued scientific citizenship and encouraged all of us to be involved in organizations like the ATS. We will sorely miss his sage advice and wonderful stories.”

Early in his career, his research focused on phagocyte recruitment and pulmonary immune responses. In more recent years, he developed an impressive research portfolio dedicated to understanding the immunological aspects of Cryptococcus neoformans infection and built a bench-to-bedside research program in interstitial lung diseases such as pulmonary fibrosis. During his time at the University of Michigan, he also fostered collaborations between basic and clinical investigators to create a specialized center for research, which was funded by the National Institutes of Health for 10 years. As chief, he was also instrumental in the division receiving SCCR grants for specialized clinical research in the areas of acute lung injury and host defense.

An ATS member since 1973, Dr. Toews was active in the Assembly on Allergy, Inflammation and Immunology, serving in many leadership positions over the years, including assembly chair. In August, his colleagues at the University of Michigan and other institutions nominated him for a 2012 ATS Distinguished Achievement Award. The University of Michigan has also recognized his lifelong contributions to the field by establishing the Galen B. Toews Endowed Professorship in Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine. For more information about the endowed position and how to donate to it, please visit