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Andrew Tager, 1959-2017

Andrew Tager

The ATS Foundation Research Program lost one of its brightest and biggest-hearted champions when Andrew Tager, MD, died of pancreatic cancer in August. He was an associate professor of medicine at Harvard and a clinician and researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Dr. Tager was a 2008 recipient of an ATS Foundation/Coalition for Pulmonary Fibrosis Partnership Grant in Pulmonary Fibrosis. That research identified the LPA1 receptor as a potential therapeutic target for pulmonary fibrosis and led to his first RO1 grant and clinical trials of an LPA1 antagonist.

Barry Shea, MD, who worked as a fellow in Dr. Tager’s lab, said that his mentor never forgot the help he got at a “make or break time” in his career. “Andy loved the ATS and he loved the ATS Foundation,” said Dr. Shea, now an assistant professor of medicine at Brown University. “As he became a world leader in pulmonary fibrosis, he got many requests to do things—so many that he had to turn some down. But he never turned down the ATS.”

Dr. Tager served on the Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) for many years, including a year as chair in 2016. “The year he served as chair embodied his whole career,” said Eric White, MD, a former chair of the committee himself and professor of medicine at the University of Michigan. “Andy saw promise in every study. While I would wonder where a researcher was going with an idea, Andy would look at the same proposal and say, ‘Boy, they have a great opportunity to look at this or look at that.’ And I’d read the proposal again and realize: Andy’s right!”

Dr. Shea, who also served on SAC, said that “Andy had this way of criticizing grants that was always constructive. Even when his comments were critical, they were insightful and complimentary, and framed in the context of how to make the proposal better.”

A natural mentor, Dr. Tager “cared for the careers of those he was mentoring at least as much as his own,” Dr. Shea added, recalling how his mentor asked him to give a prominent talk that he himself was invited to give.

“Every time someone from the lab gave a talk, Andy would be sitting up straight in the second or third row with this huge smile on his face,” Dr. Shea recalled.  “He looked like a proud dad out there.”

As excited as Dr. Tager was about science—he would joke that he needed a helmet so his head would not explode over a discovery or promising result—his wife, Carolyn, and son, Sam, meant the “world to him,” Dr. Shea said. “They were the highlight of his life.”

Dr. Tager’s Mass General colleagues have set up a scholarship fund for Sam, noting that “Andy dedicated much of his life to learning and teaching, leaving the world a better place for his efforts.” The fund will help “ensure that his son has every opportunity to do the same.”

Those interested in contributing to the fund should visit: https://www.gofundme.com/tagerscholarship


The ATS supports the ATS Foundation’s administrative expenses, assuring that every dollar contributed goes directly to support programs. 

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