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James T. Cassidy, MU professor, 'father of pediatric rheumatology,' dies at 81

Sunday, January 22, 2012 | 7:41 p.m. CST; updated 10:25 a.m. CST, Monday, January 23, 2012

COLUMBIA — James T. Cassidy was so knowledgeable — and expected his students to be just as intelligent — that his former student can still remember sitting in the back of the room and hoping Dr. Cassidy wouldn't call on him.

“He was like having a living textbook there with you,” Dr. Michael Cooperstock, Professor Emeritus of Child Health at the Women and Children’s Hospital, said. Cooperstock was a student of Dr. Cassidy’s at the University of Michigan, and then a colleague of his at MU.

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Dr. Cassidy loved his profession and the people he worked with. “He was a personal friend with everyone he worked with, whether you were his student of the day or an exchange student from London,” Cooperstock said.

James T. Cassidy, M.D. died Saturday, Jan. 21, 2012, after an illness of several months. He was 81.

He was born in Oil City, Penn., on Sep. 10, 1930 to Isabelle and Leo Cassidy.

Dr. Cassidy was an Emeritus Professor at MU and was the director of pediatric rheumatology, running an outpatient clinic there from 1988 to 2005, according to an obituary on Parker Funeral Home and Crematory's website.

He was considered “the father of pediatric rheumatology,” and wrote hundreds of academic papers on the subject as well as the first textbook, “Textbook of Pediatric Rheumatology,” which is considered the leading textbook in the field, Cooperstock said. He was honored at MU in 2006, where his colleagues praised his work.

He attended the University of Michigan Medical School and graduated in 1955, according to the obituary. That same year he married his hometown-sweetheart, Nancy Anne Deyoe, also known as “Nan.” Cooperstock said the couple had been together since they were 15 years old. They separated only to go to college, and James made sure that they reunited, he said.

Dr. Cassidy took a brief departure from practicing medicine at Michigan to serve in the U.S. Navy. He became a Lieutenant Commander before being discharged in 1962, when he returned to practicing medicine, according to the obituary.

He left his position at Michigan as Emeritus Professor of Internal Medicine and Pediatrics to chair the Department of Pediatrics at Creighton University in Omaha, Neb. He left Creighton in 1988 to come to Columbia, where he lived until his death. 

Dr. Cassidy was internationally recognized for his work in pediatric rheumatology and received many accolades throughout his career including the American College of Rheumatology’s Presidential Gold Medal. The James T. Cassidy Award was established in 2000 to recognize outstanding pediatric rheumatologists.

Dr. Cassidy began his career as a doctor of internal medicine, but switched when a need arose for pediatric doctors at Michigan, Cooperstock said. From then on Dr. Cassidy devoted his life to pediatrics, fighting diseases like juvenile arthritis and systemic lupus, he said. 

Dr. Cassidy enjoyed traveling, listening to classical music and reading literature.

He is survived by his wife, Nancy; son, John; and daughter, Susan.

Dr. Cassidy will be buried during a private service at Columbia Cemetary, 30 E. Broadway.


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