Remembrance of Saul J. Farber, MD

Eulogy Delivered by Arthur Fox, MD

Professor of Medicine, NYU School of Medicine

At the Funeral Services for Saul J. Farber, MD

October 12, 2006

Saul J. Farber, MD
Saul J. Farber, MD

I am Arthur Fox. I have known Dr. Saul Farber since 1951 when I became a chief resident at Bellevue and was inducted by him and Dr. Ludwig Eichna into the prestigious Journal Club they ran for the Department of Medicine Faculty. The intellectual abilities and rigor of the group were somewhat daunting to a tyro like me, and Saul did much to assuage my anxieties before my first presentation and guide me through the best approach.

He was obviously brilliant. He had returned to NYU and Bellevue for residency and a career in renal research after impressive wartime service as a Navy Medical officer in the South Pacific caring for Marines during several invasions. He remained my good friend and a constant source of wisdom, advice and knowledge for me, as he was for generations of students and trainees, faculty and administrators at the NYU School of Medicine during the next 55 years.

This was a period in which Saul’s brilliant career in clinical and basic laboratory investigation began. His work in the lab continued throughout his long and productive tenure as Professor and Chairman of the Department of Medicine for over 35 years, later combined with the remarkable feat of simultaneous service as acting Dean and then as Provost and Dean of the School of Medicine from 1987-1998. His selection for these unique dual careers reflected the recognition he earned here and elsewhere as a clinician and a rigorously scientific educator, as well as an unusually effective and innovative administrator. His intelligence was readily apparent and was coupled with an enduring curiosity and enthusiasm for learning and understanding. His early academic and religious training in Brooklyn had much to do with this, as he often delighted in point out. But above all, he was an excellent clinician, brilliantly discerning and almost intuitive in differential diagnosis. He continued to conduct CPC’s for medical students earlier this year!

It would be redundant for me to list his many awards and memberships in learned societies (including the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences), plus frequent service on governmental and professional committees. This is all a matter of record and well known to most of us here. Equally important is Saul’s special legacy to the generations of students, residents and faculty who were guided by his deft, effective teaching plus his superb scientific and compassionate approach to understanding and treating human disease. His quiet humor and warm personal interest in others permeated his contacts with us all and his wise counsel was constantly sought. We faculty members were routinely approached at national meetings by former students and alumni who would ask, “How is Saul? ... Please give him my special regards!”

His opening gambit as a teacher and speaker was often “Let me tell you a story,” setting the stage for a relaxed and grateful audience, and sometimes even heard in one-on-one sessions for personal advice and guidance. But, as others might sometimes learn, he did not suffer fools, ignore addled thinking or excuses for deviations from honesty. Saul Farber guided our Medical Center through a remarkable period of achievement and growth and earned universal admiration and trust from our large community. 

Saul had an enduring pride in his heritage from his forebears, especially the physician members of the Bunim family, but his greatest pride, enthusiasm and delight were for Doris and for Joshua and Beth and their families. Many of us have had the pleasure of enjoying the hospitality of the Farber family over the years and it was apparent to all of us that they were a significant source of the calm and joy in this remarkable man’s life and work. We will all miss him very much. We were blessed to have had him with us for so long.