A tribute to Lloyd H. (“Holly”) Smith Jr., MD

Lloyd Hollingsworth (“Holly”) Smith Jr., MD, passed away on June 18. He was 94.

Elected to the ASCI in 1961, Dr. Smith served as a Councilor from 1966 to 1969 and was the 1969-1970 President. From 1964 to 1985, he served as Chair of the Department of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, leading the institution to world-class status in part through a steadfast commitment to incorporating basic-science training in the medical curriculum.

He served on the U.S. President’s Science Advisory Committee from 1970 to 1973 and Harvard University’s Board of Overseers from 1974 to 1980. From 1974 to 1995, he was a member of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Medical Advisory Board, with the last half of his tenure as Board Chair.

We mourn the loss of an ardent supporter of physician-scientists and a true gentleman scholar, whose commitment will not be forgotten.

In his May 4, 1970, Presidential Address, “Biomedical Research and National Policy,” Dr. Smith first remarked upon delivery of the Address itself: “… casual perusal of the past fails to reveal any firm mandate transmitted from a grateful membership for this form of gratuitous pontification. Nevertheless, like some aging Beefeater at the Tower of London, each president bows to history and clings to these atavistic trappings.”

Of course, Dr. Smith’s concerns regarding the broad condition of academic medicine were far from gratuitous, and his eloquent phrasing about challenges to biomedical research and the erosion of support in play at the time — nearly 50 years ago — could be presented today with little revision required:

“There are no easy answers. We have a very broad audience in this country. The basic problem is to convert this audience to a supporting constituency. It will require clarification of our goals, education of the American public, and intimate knowledge of the mechanisms by which decisions are made in the federal government. Some of this can be accomplished individually through education of our friends, patients, colleagues, and our representatives in government. The latter is of particular importance and preferably carried out locally, for the receptivity of the individual congressman increases in a linear fashion as he returns to his constituency. Arguments which appear to be special pleading in Washington gain credence when encountered with specific details in a familiar setting. In addition, there are things which we must do collectively as members of a scientific community.”

In 2014, the ASCI honored Dr. Smith through the creation of the Donald Seldin~Holly Smith Award for Pioneering Research, connecting the legacies of these exemplary leaders in academic medicine with outstanding early-career physician-scientists.

In remembrance of Dr. Smith, we have compiled a collection of photographs; full video from a reception held at the Gladstone Institutes in 2014 recognizing the founding of the Seldin~Smith Award; and an excerpt from his “Conversations with Giants in Medicine” video interview with the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

Our condolences go to Dr. Smith’s wife Margaret, to his family (which he referred to as his “biomass”), and to his many colleagues, trainees, and friends.

With the passing of Dr. Smith and, in late April, of Dr. Seldin, our community has lost two luminaries, both guiding forces and transformational figures for their respective institutions and for the progress of science in medicine writ large.

Kieren Marr, MD
2018-2019 President
On behalf of the ASCI Council

Mukesh K. Jain, MD
2014-2015 President
Chair, Seldin~Smith Award Selection Committee