Skip to Main Content

In Memoriam: Thomas Duffy, MD

November 01, 2022

Thomas P. Duffy, MD, professor emeritus of medicine (hematology), died on October 28 at age 85. He was a pillar of the faculty of Yale School of Medicine (YSM) for 46 years. Duffy served as director of the Hematology Fellowship Program for Yale Cancer Center for over a decade. The impact of his teaching was recognized with seven prestigious teaching awards and four invitations to deliver the commencement address for Yale School of Medicine. He was one of the initiators of the “Clinical Reasoning Series” in the New England Journal of Medicine and published more than 100 articles and essays. He also shared in the editing and authorship of the books Medical Complications of Pregnancy and Making Sense: Beauty, Creativity, and Healing. On his retirement in 2014, the inpatient hematology service at Yale New Haven Hospital (YNHH) was re-named the Duffy Service.

For many years, Duffy used his passion for the arts to lead the Program for Humanities in Medicine at YSM. The enrichment program has subsequently created opportunities for the introduction of many offerings in arts and humanities to complement the science components of the YSM curriculum. He was also instrumental in the establishment of the Yale Medical Symphony Orchestra in 2008 and was a fellow of the Whitney Humanities Center.

A national thought leader in the field of bioethics, Duffy brought his knowledge and insights as a passionate educator of clinical ethics to Yale house staff and students. He was a founding member of the Bioethics Committee at YNHH, served on the board of the Yale Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics, was an ethicist scholar of the Yale Bioethics Consortium, and was a committee member of the Cunniff-Dixon Foundation, an organization that recognizes outstanding end-of-life care by physicians throughout the United States. He served on the national boards of Americares and Health In Harmony, and was a steering committee and faculty member of Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics (FASPE), an initiative that takes professional students to Berlin and Poland for an immersion in the history and ethical implications of the Holocaust.

A native of Brooklyn, New York, Duffy attended Saint Peter's University before graduating from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, where he completed his residency training in internal medicine and specialty training in hematology, serving as the chief medical resident on the Osler Medical Service. Following an assistant professorship at Johns Hopkins, he joined the Yale faculty in 1976 and was promoted to professor of medicine in the Clinical Scholar Track in 1981. Until his death, he was an active participant in the Koerner Center at Yale, where he fostered a community of intellectual discussion and appreciation of the arts among its members.

Duffy will be remembered for his strong advocacy for his patients, his students, and his colleagues and for his eloquent explanations and questions during Grand Rounds. He carried Brooklyn and Baltimore with him throughout his time in New Haven, where he and his wife Susan often hosted lifelong friends at their home in the East Rock neighborhood. Duffy was also an avid gardener and presence at Edgerton Park and local nurseries and pursued the Master Gardener program at the University of Connecticut. He often spent his free time reading philosophy and poetry while seated on his porch enjoying a view of the beautiful gardens he created, as well as swimming on Nantucket, in Maine, and at the New Haven Lawn Club.

He is survived by his wife Susan; his three sons, Conor, Eamon (a graduate of Yale schools of Medicine and Management), and Liam; his two grandchildren, Athena Emily and Thomas Paris; and his two daughters-in-law, Nicole Bikakis and Jackie Delligatti. He is also survived by his sister, Patricia, and her husband, Joseph.

A memorial service will be scheduled in YSM's Medical Historical Library and an endowment for an ethics lecture in Duffy’s name will be established. Contributions in memory of Dr. Duffy may be directed to the Thomas P. Duffy Lecture in Medical Ethics Fund, Yale School of Medicine, Office of Development, PO Box 7611, New Haven CT 06519-0611.

Funeral services will be held at St. Thomas More Chapel, 268 Park Street, New Haven, on Thursday, November 3, at 10 a.m. Reception to follow at New Haven Lawn Club.

Submitted by Robert Forman on November 01, 2022