Division of Pulmonary Medicine

Celebrating the Life of of Dr. Thomas K. Aldrich

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On Thursday, November 17, dozens of colleagues, friends, family and New York City firefighters, gathered at Montefiore’s Grand Hall to celebrate the life of Dr. Thomas K. Aldrich, who died on September 5, 2016, of pancreatic cancer. Dr. Aldrich was Professor of Medicine and Director of the Pulmonary/Critical Care Training Program at Montefore/Einstein, and Director of the Pulmonary Function Laboratory at Montefiore.

aldirch 200Hosted by the Division of Pulmonary Medicine, the heartfelt memorial featured a buffet lunch, speakers and a slide show illustrating the breadth of Dr. Aldrich’s connections with his family and friends, his passion for medicine and science, and his love for hockey, soccer and tennis.

Drs. Simon Spivack, Jeffrey Weiss, David Appel, David Prezant, and three former and current trainees recalled Dr. Aldrich - a member of the Einstein-Montefiore family from 1982 to 2016 - as a thoughtful, soft spoken and modest scholar, a brilliant and dedicated clinician and scientist, a passionate teacher, mentor and role model, and above all, a cherished friend with a calming "Buddhist smile."

“With his passing, we all have a hole in our lives,” said Dr. Spivack, Chief of the Division of Pulmonary Medicine, who recalled interviewing with Dr. Aldrich in 2006 at the eminent VIP lounge across from Montefiore. “He was so decent, I remember thinking, ‘I can definitely work with this guy,’” Dr. Spivack said. He remained in awe of Tom’s commitment to clinical and physiologic research pursuits, patient care, fellows’ careers, and even interviewing prospective pulmonary fellows –and playing tennis - until three weeks before he passed away.

Dr. Jeffrey Weiss, Institutional Medical Director for Montefiore Health System and Professor of Medicine (Internal Medicine), representing Dr. Safyer, described Dr. Aldrich as a member of an elite group of leaders galvanized by the mission to offer top-level care to the poorest people in the country. “For 34 years, this guy came here and killed it,” said Dr. Weiss. “He’s touched thousands of patients and residents and the impact of his career is not lost on Montefiore. He’s left a tremendous legacy.”

TKAgroup350Dr. David Appel, Director of the Montefiore Sleep Laboratory and Professor of Medicine (Pulmonary Medicine), worked closely with Dr. Aldrich for 34 years. He recalled Tom’s knack for recording tedious experimental detail as having a religious quality, and his ability for creative problem solving that he brought to the Sleep lab. “It was Tom’s idea to put the lab on the pulmonary floor and insisted on providing care regardless of patient’s ability to pay,” Dr. Appel said, recalling the day Tom came to work with a swollen trachea inflicted by a softball, that didn’t keep him away.

“I am who I am because of Tom,” said Dr. David Prezant, Chief Medical Officer at the Office of Medical Affairs for the Fire Department of the City of New York (FDNY) and professor of Medicine (Pulmonary medicine) at Einstein, who was one of Tom’s first research fellows in 1984. He stayed on to help Dr. Aldrich conduct research, eventually running the pulmonary lab.

After the attacks on the World Trade Centers in 2001, Dr. Prezant said their work took a turn; they began to study pulmonary issues in 82 FDNY firefighters exposed to toxins at the WTC. “We saw the advocacy to get access to all the people exposed was emotional, charitable, and patriotic, but after a while the country would move on,” Dr. Prezant said. “The only way to keep programs going was to translate that advocacy from emotional to data driven advocacy.”

Former fellows Sami Nachman (now on MMC faculty) Sahar Ahmad (now at SUNY-Stony Brook) and Adam Green (current chief PCCM fellow) also spoke about Dr. Aldrich’s incredible devotion to his trainees.

flowersFollowing the speakers, Pulmonary division administrator Lynette Bradberry sang a powerful hymn that left few dry eyes. In closing the memorial celebration, Tom’s son Drew Aldrich said he was in awe of how modest his father was. “We miss him fiercely.”

To honor Tom’s commitment to education and to the Montefiore and Einstein communities, his family has established the Thomas K. Aldrich, MD Lectureship and Education Fund for fellowship education. This fund will provide resources for lectures, fellowship conferences and other necessary educational activities for Pulmonary fellows.

To make a contribution, please contact Jessica Gillota at jgillota@montefiore.org at 718.430.2283 or mail to:

Montefiore Health System
Albert Einstein College of Medicine
Attn: Jessica Gillota
1300 Morris Park Avenue
Bronx, NY 10461

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Albert Einstein College of Medicine
Price Center for Genetic & Translational Medicine
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Bronx, NY 10461

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