Sydney Finegold, MD, FIDSA, Past President of IDSA, passed away on September 17 at age 97. He has been referred to as “Mr. Anaerobe” and described as “a giant among scientists,” and a founder of the field of infectious diseases. In fact, he was one of the founders of IDSA in 1963.
During his lengthy and prolific career, Dr. Finegold studied every aspect of anaerobic bacteriology. His lifelong interest in the impact of antimicrobial agents on bowel flora began in medical school at the University of Texas Medical Branch where he received his MD in 1949. He received his training in internal medicine at the Minneapolis VA Hospital and went on to the Wadsworth VA in Los Angeles where he spent the remainder of his career. It was at Wadsworth that he began training under William Hewitt, MD, a clinical infectious diseases physician.
He held several leading positions throughout the course of his career at Wadsworth including Chief, Chest and Infectious Diseases Sections; Chief, Infectious Disease Section; Associate Chief of Staff for Research and Development; and Staff Physician, Infectious Disease Section. He became Emeritus Professor of Medicine, Microbiology, Immunology, Molecular Genetics and Staff Physician, Infectious Disease Section in 2000. Finegold also taught at the UCLA School of Medicine as Professor of Medicine and Professor of Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics.
His research focused primarily on the role of anaerobic bacteria in numerous infections and the make-up of bowel flora and its connection to disease. During his career he authored nearly 400 research papers, over 100 review papers, 39 books and monographs and over 200 book chapters.
“Sid Finegold was the clear leader of defining the laboratory, clinical expression and management of anaerobic infections. There is no #2. His contributions had a formidable impact on the field of infectious diseases. Dr. Finegold will be remembered by his fellows and colleagues for his commitment to science, discovery and establishment of the clear connection between the laboratory work and the patient,” said John Bartlett, MD, FIDSA.
He was the recipient of numerous awards including Fellow, IDSA; Fellow, American Academy of Microbiology; Fellowship in the American Association for Science; and Master, American College of Physicians. In addition to being a founding member of IDSA, he was Founding President of the Anaerobe Society of the Americas. He served as President of IDSA from 1981-1982 and was the recipient of IDSA’s Alexander Fleming Award for Lifetime Achievement in 1987.
After “retiring” in 2000, he continued to make tremendous contributions to medical research, namely being the first to identify the relationship between intestinal bacteria and autism. At age 91, he remarkably was still playing tennis weekly. He was finally forced into full retirement at age 96 due to failing health.
He was predeceased by his wife Mary Finegold, and is survived by his children: Joe Finegold, Pat DeMeo, and Mike Finegold, his children and grandchildren and his longtime companion Marilyn. A tribute website has been established at sidfinegold.info/.