Dr. Shearer: SCID expert, pediatric immunology investigator
A pediatrician dedicated to caring for a boy whose disease confined him to a sterile life, William T. Shearer, M.D., FAAP, of Houston, died of polymyositis Oct. 9. He was 81.
Under Dr. Shearer’s care, David Vetter, who had severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID), lived inside a plastic room that protected his weak immune system from illnesses. David died after an unsuccessful bone marrow transplant at age 12 in 1984.
Dr. Shearer often commented publicly about the significance of understanding David’s disease, which led to the development of a test to detect SCID in newborns. Because early detection is crucial for survival, this information has improved the health of many children living with immunodeficiencies.
Dr. Shearer successfully advocated for SCID to be added to the Texas newborn screening panel in 2012. Forty-eight states now screen newborns for SCID.
In a statement released by Texas Children’s Hospital, David’s mother described Dr. Shearer as a quiet, dignified, unassuming and humble physician for whom their son had love and respect. The Vetters met Dr. Shearer after losing an infant son to SCID. After David died, they remained committed to finding a cure and close to Dr. Shearer.
A clinician, teacher and investigator in pediatric immunology and HIV/AIDS, Dr. Shearer was founder and former chief of the Allergy and Immunology Service at Texas Children’s Hospital and professor of pediatrics and immunology at Baylor College of Medicine. Later, he was named director of The David Center at Texas Children’s Hospital, where he pursued basic and clinical research in primary and secondary immunodeficiency.
He earned numerous awards and held several leadership roles in pediatric immunology and HIV/AIDS professional organizations, including director of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology and vice chair of the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education Residency and Review Committee for Allergy and Immunology.
He earned his medical degree from Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Mo., and trained in pediatrics, allergy and immunology at St. Louis Children’s Hospital and Barnes Hospital.
Dr. Shearer is survived by his wife, Lynn DesPrez, one daughter, five sons and five grandchildren.
Bruce Buehler, M.D., FAAP, of Omaha, Neb., died Oct. 10 at age 75.
Roland W. Gray, M.D., FAAP, of Nashville, Tenn., died Oct. 6 at age 71.
Ted McCarthy, M.D., FAAP, of Santa Rosa, Calif., died Aug. 2 at age 97.
Daniel Palant, M.D., FAAP, of Lexington, Mass., died Aug. 18 at age 82.
James V. Volk, M.D., FAAP, of Hendersonville, N.C., died of pancreatic cancer Oct. 13 at age 72.
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