Some of his clinic patients had distinctive responses to questionnaires and were in distress. This led to his interest in fibromyalgia. While some saw his work as controversial in this area, he never wavered in why it was of such great interest; he knew these patients were suffering, and the lack of clear diagnoses, mechanisms of action or effective treatments meant there was more work to be done.
Hans Rasker, who had been a colleague of Fred’s since 1978, wrote to me, “Fred remained open minded, realizing the 1990 fibromyalgia criteria that he co-authored had methodological shortcomings; he noticed the opinion of the patients themselves were under-recognized. … The question, ‘What is pain?,’ how to define it and other aspects of fibromyalgia had his attention until his death.”
As Daniel Clauw, MD, professor of anesthesiology, psychiatry and rheumatology at the University of Michigan Medical School, recently stated, Fred truly was a “consummate physician-scientist and leader.”12 In between seeing patients, he would burst into my office with a new research idea or ask where I was with a figure. There was always something new to be done, spurred by listening to his patients.
His mind was never unoccupied. Yet it was not always about work. He had a love for modern art, classical music, reading and bicycling. On off-clinic days in 2002, he would blast classical music and air conduct phrases and tell us something unique about the composer or recording. In his later years, he focused on photography, gardening and cooking. He had great pride in his sons and grandkids and loved to brag about them even when distance kept them apart.
Fred had so many stories to share. From childhood I can still imagine him in the back of a classroom answering the teacher’s “Who knows …” question with a low booming, “The Shadow Knows” and subsequently getting detention. I can see him “trading” patients with other New York City medical schools to learn about more interesting cases. I’ve heard his stories about John Tukey and Richard Feynman, and I started to wonder if this brilliant and bullheaded Brooklyn Jew may have felt a bit isolated in the Great Plains. Yet unlike these other scientific greats, he avoided conventional academia arguably to maintain his version of independent and productive research.
An aspect of academia I suspect Fred missed was having a formal system for mentorship. He was eager to help any student or physician anywhere and anytime. He co-led the CHORD rheumatology fellowship from 2003-2006, which provided research training and funding for 45 fellows. He took a chance on me, someone without any formal statistics training but eager to learn, to be his statistician in 2001. Even in his final days in the intensive care unit he was providing research support to those who asked.