Spiro, Howard Physician and Medical Humanist, dies at 87 Howard Marget Spiro MD, 87, of New Haven and Madison, CT 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 in his field, 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, his four children, Pamela Spiro Wagner, Carolyn Spiro Silvestri, Philip Spiro and Martha Spiro and his six grandchildren; Allison Spiro-Winn, Jeremy Spiro-Winn, Hannah Spiro, Claire Spiro, Oliver Spiro and Adriane Spiro. He also leaves behind his sister Dolores Selenkow of Waban, MA, two step-sisters, Gilda Spinat and Nancy Hirschtritt, and several nieces, nephews and cousins. 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 immediately following. In lieu of flowers donations may be made to the Yale School of Medicine - In Memory of Howard Spiro; Yale SOM Office of Development, Attn: Jancy Houck, PO Box 7611, New Haven, CT 06519. These funds will be dedicated to continuing Dr. Spiro's dream of marrying the humanities and clinical medicine to improve patient care. Arrangements are with the Hawley Lincoln Memorial, Guilford.
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Published in the New Haven Register on Mar. 18, 2012