Share this story

UMass Medical School, UMass Memorial statement about Robert Finberg

Joint statement from Michael F. Collins, MD,  Chancellor, UMass Medical School, and Senior Vice President for the Health Sciences, UMass; Eric Dickson, MD, President & CEO, UMass Memorial Health; and Terence R. Flotte, MD, Executive Deputy Chancellor, Provost, UMass Medical School, and Dean, School of Medicine, on the death of Robert W. Finberg, MD.

With deep sadness, we regret to inform our colleagues across the UMass Medical School and UMass Memorial communities that Robert W. Finberg, MD, chair emeritus and distinguished professor of medicine, died unexpectedly yesterday. He was 71.

Robert W. Finberg, MD, earlier this year

With his trademark hat and a direct, approachable style that made him an effective leader, clinician, researcher, teacher and colleague, Dr. Finberg had a unique and significant influence at UMass Medical School and UMass Memorial since his arrival in 1999. As one of the nation’s foremost virologists, his professional contributions included more than 300 publications, more than 40 years of continuous NIH funding and numerous research grants from the Department of Defense, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and others. His body of work has elucidated our understanding of viral receptors and entry to host responses and he was widely recognized as an expert on influenza. His record of service to our academic health sciences center included nearly a decade on the UMass Memorial Board of Trustees.

When the coronavirus pandemic erupted, Dr. Finberg’s response was swift and impactful: he served as principal investigator on more than half a dozen COVID-19 clinical trials including those to test the safety and effectiveness of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine and remdesivir as a treatment for those with severe COVID-19 illness. Dr. Finberg quickly became a go-to expert for media outlets and our own town hall meetings, highlighting his clear, concise and insightful expertise and invaluable guidance through uncertain times. No one was surprised when he was invited to serve as a member of Gov. Charlie Baker’s COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Group, and this became one of the many roles Dr. Finberg accepted with enthusiasm and clarity of purpose.

However, for all of his professional accomplishments, last year when he was named a distinguished professor of medicine and chair emeritus, Dr. Finberg insisted we include that he was “most proud of his contributions to the career development of the many students, residents and faculty members whose illustrious careers and achievements have brought international recognition to our medical school and health system.”

Only Dr. Finberg’s beloved family elicited a greater sense of pride—he was a devoted husband, father and grandfather. We join you in extending our deepest condolences to Dr. Finberg’s family and loved ones and will share additional information about arrangements when they are available.