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Cardiovascular Expert Dies at 60

Smith Was Leading Heart Researcher, Model 'Physician-Scientist'


Thomas W. Smith '58, professor of medicine and chief of cardiovascular medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH), died of cancer last Sunday at his home in Weston. He was 60.

Smith was a leader in cardiovascular research, having authored over 400 research papers. He was a member of the board of directors of the American Heart Association and chair of its research program and evaluation committee.

"He was a much respected and admired professor of medicine," said Eleanor G. Shore '51, dean for faculty affairs at Harvard Medical School (HMS). "He made highly valued contributions to medical education at Harvard Medical School and to the leadership of the division of cardiology at Brigham and Women's Hospital."

Smith was appointed chief of cardiovascular medicine at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, a forerunner of BWH, in 1974. As head of the department, he oversaw 70 physicians and was responsible for the training of 300 fellows during his 22 years in the post.

BWH and HMS created the Thomas W. Smith Fellowship in Cardiology last October to recognize Smith's many contributions to the two institutions and to the field of cardiology.

Smith's research helped elucidate the biochemical pathways that control contractions of the normal and failing heart. He devised an antidote to mediate the side effects of the widely used drugs digitoxin.

HMS Executive Dean for Academic Programs S. James Adelstein, who first met smith when Smith worked in his laboratory as a first-year medical student over 35 years ago, said smith was a first-rate physician, both in his clinical and research work.

"He was a model for other physician-scientists," Adelstein said.

Adelstein also noted that Smith encouraged and helped foster the careers of several women in his department, including Professors of Medicine Joanne S. Ingwall and Eva J. Neer.

Smith was born in Akron, Ohio. He served as a line officer in the Navy from 1958 to 1961, graduated from HMS in 1965 and underwent clinical training at the Massachusetts General Hospital.

"The decision to pursue medicine was based on a personal preference to contend with nature rather than with an opposing advocate as an adversary," he wrote in the 25th anniversary report of his College class.

Smith's colleagues said he worked regularly until shortly before his death.

"He was very courageous and very determined not to let his cancer get him down," Adelstein said. "He would even work on the days he would get his chemotherapy treatment."

Adelstein also said Smith was an avid golfer and "had a fascination with motor cars."

Smith is survived by his wife, Sherley Goodwin Smith; two daughters, Julia Smith Nelligan and Allison Lloyd Smith; a son, Geoffrey; a sister, Suzanne Smith Mann; and three grandchildren.

A memorial service for Smith will be held this afternoon.

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