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Honoring Robert Finberg with a fund to support infectious disease and immunology education

Dr. Finberg looking at solar eclipse.On Aug. 30, 2021, UMass Chan Medical School lost a cherished colleague with the passing of Robert W. Finberg, MD. Dr. Finberg’s distinguished career as a physician-scientist, administrator, educator, mentor, and friend spanned four decades. He was Chair of the Department of Medicine at UMass Chan for 21 years and a faculty member in the Division of Infectious Diseases and Immunology, the Program in Innate Immunity and the Department of Microbiology and Physiological Systems.  

Dr. Finberg was widely recognized as an expert on viral pathogenesis with recent emphasis on influenza and other human RNA viruses. When the coronavirus pandemic erupted, he responded swiftly and with tremendous impact. He served as principal investigator on more than half a dozen COVID-19 clinical trials, personally administered patient care, and quickly became a go-to expert for media outlets and UMass Chan town hall meetings. He also served as a member of Gov. Charlie Baker’s COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Group.

Now, an endowed fund established in his name, the Robert W. Finberg, MD Memorial Fund, will carry on his legacy. More than 60 donors contributed to the Finberg Fund in celebration of Dr. Finberg. The gifts will primarily support an annual lectureship on the topic of Pandemics, Plagues and Viruses. In addition, educational opportunities for faculty, fellows, residents, and medical students studying infectious diseases and immunology will be supported including research symposia such as Innate Immunity Day, manuscript publication, travel to conferences or for techniques and academic venues reflecting Dr. Finberg’s deep dedication as teacher and mentor to many members of the UMass Chan community.

While the 2022 UMass Chan Innate Immunity symposium was planned under the leadership of Dr. Finberg, he did not live to see the event, which was held in his honor on May 25. Colleagues, collaborators, friends, and family paid tribute to Dr. Finberg, sharing personal memories and photos celebrating his life and immense contributions to the field and to the growth of UMass Chan as a center of scholarship in innate immunity, human immunology and infectious disease.

“Fostering the success of UMass Chan, individuals as well as the institution was always his goal. He took people’s successes as well as struggles home. Despite numerous scientific, clinical, and administrative achievements, he was always humble and interested in everyone and truly everything else. He was the most wonderful husband, father, and grandfather,” his wife of fifty years, Dr. Joyce Fingeroth, commented.

“Dr. Finberg was an internationally known scholar,” said David McManus, MD, chair of the Department of Medicine. “He brought tremendous gravitas to UMass Chan as an institution, stepping up and bringing in new therapies and new ideas, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, when we needed them the most.

On a personal level, his impact went way beyond what you might imagine. He was an incredible mentor. Gracious and selfless, Bob always made time for me as I was transitioning to chair of the Department of Medicine, and he remained a constant source of support and advice. I think the Finberg Fund, with its focus on expanding research and knowledge on immunity, Bob’s professional passion, is a perfect way to honor his legacy.”