Obituary: Robert M. Lumish / Chief of Infectious Diseases at UPMC Mercy Hospital

June 1, 1947 - July 31, 2014

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Robert M. Lumish, a noted infectious diseases specialist, never did anything in half-measures, his daughter said.

“If he was making soup, he would make four soups,” Terry Babcock-Lumish said. “If he was making omelets, he would make the most gorgeous omelets, with local ingredients.”

Dr. Lumish died Thursday at his home in Upper St. Clair after a battle with lymphoma. He was 67 and had served as chief of infectious diseases at UPMC Mercy for 30 years and founded a private practice, Pittsburgh Infectious Diseases Ltd.

He was a graduate of Lower Merion High School and of the five-year medical program at Penn State University and Thomas Jefferson Medical School in Philadelphia. Dr. Lumish completed his internship, residency and fellowship at the former Montefiore Hospital in Oakland. He served as an epidemic intelligence service officer in Miami before returning to Pittsburgh in 1977.

His daughter said her father’s compassion was part of what made him a good doctor.

“He treated people like whole beings, not a collection of body parts,” she said. The family often played a game when they went into any public place in the South Hills: “How many people will recognize ‘Dr. Dad’ today.”

“Even years later, family members of patients would remember him,” she said. “He would go to the theater or the Giant Eagle and people would know him.”

Stephen Colodny, his practice partner at Pittsburgh Infectious Diseases, said Dr. Lumish was the pre-eminent specialist on infection control on a national level and was one of the earliest members of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology. Even though he founded the practice, Dr. Lumish valued the opinions of all his staff, and there was never a hierarchy, Dr. Colodny said.

“Bob was the fairest guy who ever existed,” Dr. Colodny said. “Everyone loved the guy.”

Terry Philbin, chairman of the department of medicine at Mercy, had known Dr. Lumish since 1983 and studied under him.

“He was an excellent role model,” Dr. Philbin said. Dr. Lumish was among the first to study Legionnaire’s disease, Dr. Philbin said, and was an extremely hard worker in addition to being a well-respected doctor.

“He was just a tremendous physician, just what you want in a physician if you are sick,” Dr. Philbin said. “I wish everyone were like him. The profession would be the better for it.”

Mrs. Babcock-Lumish said her father’s work often meant long hours, so the family did not have a set dinner time.

“It was whenever Dad got home,” she recalled. “I assumed every family had the same dinner time. And it wasn’t until I got to college that I realized normal dinner table conversation wasn’t about diseases and other graphic stuff.”

Saundra Lumish, Dr. Lumish’s wife, recalled her husband’s generosity, whether giving financially or giving his time. She told of the close relationship he developed with the family’s regular mail carrier over his prized deliveries of coffee beans.

“The mailman was making the delivery one day and said, ‘I don’t know what you have in here, but it really smells good,’ ” she said. Thereafter, whenever he was expecting a coffee delivery, which he ordered from various places across the country, he would call the mailman and ask him if he wanted it iced or hot, and what the estimated time of arrival was going to be.

In addition to his wife and daughter, Dr. Lumish is survived by a son, Adam Lumish of Upper St. Clair, and a granddaughter.

Services and interment in Mt. Lebanon Cemetery were private. The family asks that donations be made in his memory to the Brother's Brother Foundation, 1200 Galveston Road, Pittsburgh 15223 or at www.brothersbrother.org.


Kim Lyons: klyons@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1241.

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