It is my sad duty to share news with you of the recent passing of Dr. Tom O’Dorisio, whom I remember most vividly from the wonderful keynote remarks he delivered at a CCOM commencement ceremony some years ago. His partner in many things, M. Sue O’Dorisio, MD, PhD, tells us that he died peacefully near their children and grandchildren in Ohio and that an obituary will appear soon on the Snyder Funeral Home website. We can share that link with all of you when it becomes available. [Update: That obituary is here and contains three links to options for making donations in Dr. O’Dorisio’s memory.]
Dr. O’Dorisio joined the University of Iowa in 1999 as a professor of internal medicine after decades at Ohio State University, where he held appointments in Internal Medicine, Physiology, and Pathology and Human Nutrition, after completing his residency and endocrinology fellowship there. While at OSU he served as Director of the Division of Endocrinology and held other leadership roles guiding components of the research mission. Over the years, from 1967 until just a couple months ago, Dr. O’Dorisio published nearly 330 peer-reviewed articles, two books, dozens of book chapters, and scores of other scholarly works. His passion for research was only matched by his love for teaching, winning multiple teaching awards at OSU and Iowa. It was at Ohio, in fact, that as a first-year medical student George Weiner, MD, said he first encountered Dr. O’Dorisio. “At that time,” Dr. Weiner wrote, “his positive attitude, enthusiasm for life and for all aspects of academic medicine had a big impact on me.”
The O’Dorisios’ recruitment to Iowa was a coup for our institution and the pair quickly established themselves both within their respective departments and as collaborators within the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center (HCCC). In Endocrinology and throughout UI Health Care, Dr. O’Dorisio made fast friends with his openness, good humor, and a genuine curiosity in his colleagues. William Sivitz, MD, wrote, “There was something about him that made interactions very enjoyable. I would look forward to meeting him, whether formally or in chance encounters. O’Do always had something positive and interesting to relate.” Joseph Dillon, MB, BCh, BAO, echoed Dr. Sivitz: “His self-deprecating humor and positive attitude with colleagues and patients alike created a place we all wanted to share.” Dr. Dillon also wrote of his gratitude to Dr. O’Dorisio for introducing him “to a whole new part of my professional life.”
That introduction was to Dr. O’Dorisio’s work in the field of neuroendocrine tumors (NET). From the time they arrived at Iowa, he and Sue worked tirelessly to expand the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment available to address the rising incidence of this relentless form of cancer. In 2015, they led the successful effort to bring an NIH Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE) grant to the HCCC, the first ever of its kind to address NETs. Four years later, thanks to the O’Dorisios’ leadership, the HCCC earned a Center of Excellence designation from the European Neuroendocrine Tumor Society, the only such center in the United States and only one of 50 worldwide. Tom’s impact on our institution and the lives of the patients he transformed can be measured in generations. His generous spirit and relentless optimism were infectious and will be sorely missed.
Sue has asked that donations in Tom’s memory can be directed toward the UI Center for Advancement’s NET Fund. We will share that link as soon as it is available as well.
Please see the full comments from some of his colleagues below.
I’ve never known a more generous or humble person than Tom. His self-deprecating humor and positive attitude with colleagues and patients alike created a place we all wanted to share. His enthusiasm for research and clinical work was infectious. Tom always had time for his patients – that included giving many his personal phone number. Tom introduced me to a whole new part of my professional life for which I will always be grateful.
— Joseph Dillon
Tom O’Dorisio (O’Do) was a wonderful person. It is difficult to put into words, but there was something about him that made interactions very enjoyable. I would look forward to meeting him, whether formally or in chance encounters. O’Do always had something positive and interesting to relate; sometimes work related and serious, but often humorous, witty, thoughtful, and entertaining.
— William Sivitz
Tom was a role model for me going back to my earliest days in medicine – I first met him when I was a first year medical student at Ohio State in 1979 and he was a junior faculty member. At that time, his positive attitude, enthusiasm for life and for all aspects of academic medicine had a big impact on me. I was thrilled when we were able to recruit Tom and Sue to Iowa. Tom’s enthusiasm and zest for life and medicine never diminished. Tom was a true role model who lived an amazing and impactful life.
— George Weiner