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RIP: Stanley M. Aronson, M.D., medical leader, essayist

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How very, very sad  today to hear of the death of Stanley M. Aronson, M.D., at age 92 after a long battle with age and illness that did not diminish his mental acuity and his love of life.

Stan was a giant of medical education,  at Brown University and elsewhere, a distinguished leader in global public health, especially in developing nations, and an elegant, learned and delightfully idiosyncratic writer. He somehow combined joy, enthusiasm and even exuberance with a deep skepticism and  (I think) a basically tragic view of life. And then there was his   amusement  in absurd situations, including involving himself.

I knew him in  the various roles we each had over the years,  but especially because of our editor-writer relationship.

I  had been well aware of his distinguished career well before I became The Providence Journal’s editorial-page editor, in 1992.

But it was then, at the encouragement of my wife, Nancy, that we became friends after I hired him  to do a weekly column for The Journal’s Commentary pages on medicine, history, science, language and a few hundred other topics. My wife had  become a fan while reading Stan’s columns in  Medicine/Health Rhode Island, the  journal of the Rhode Island Medical Journal, where she had done some art and graphics work.

I left The Journal, except as a rarely read freelance columnist, in 2013, but my successor, Edward Achorn, also long a fan of Stan’s, has continued to run the columns, many of which have been reprinted in newspapers across America and Canada. Collections of his columns have comprised the contents of three books.

Stan continued to write these essays until his death:  His work ethic was the equal of  his other legendary attributes.  His work has enriched the lives of multitudes and will continue to do so. Meanwhile, his many friends will mourn him as long as they live.

How resonant it is that his Jan. 19 column for The Journal was entitled “And death shall have no dominion”.


— Robert Whitcomb

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