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Dermatology’s Byers remembered for his skill, warmth

Jan. 13, 2021, 2:02 PM


by Paul Govern

Jeffrey David Byers, MD, associate professor of Clinical Dermatology and vice chair for Clinical Affairs in the Department of Dermatology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, died Jan. 9. He was 54.

Jeffrey David Byers, MD

Dr. Byers was diagnosed with liver cancer in October 2020.

“One of the things that I will miss is Jeff’s really uncanny ability to listen. And he combined that with a refined emotional intelligence,” said Meg Chren, MD, professor and chair of the Department of Dermatology.

“He was also ambitious for the department, and that’s kind of infectious — he wanted us to grow and develop and be the best we can be, and that was something I really appreciated.”

When he joined VUMC in 2004, Dr. Byers became the Medical center’s first dermatologist to locate a full-time practice off campus, in Franklin, Tennessee. From January 2016 to January 2018, he served as interim director of Dermatology, which was then still a division of the Department of Medicine.

His colleagues highlighted Dr. Byers’ unfailing wit and calm demeanor.

“Jeff was a dear friend, an outstanding clinician and educator, and a humble and compassionate leader,” said John Zic, MD, professor of Dermatology. “He did an amazing job of steering our ship in the right direction as a division, and he played a critical role in our establishment as a department.

“He was our piano man — his musical talent brought joy and cheer into our department.”

Jeff Byers, MD, with, (front row, from left) daughter Jessica, wife Janet, (back row, from left) sons Stephen and Andrew.
Jeff Byers, MD, with, (front row, from left) daughter Jessica, wife Janet, son Daniel, (back row, from left) sons Stephen and Andrew.

Dr. Byers, the musician, was in demand for Dermatology social events, and he entertained at annual holiday gatherings of the Department of Medicine. An accomplished pianist, he was a performer who also wrote arrangements and original music.

“He was one of the most amazing, special people you’ll ever meet. He had this way about him that I think helped to make him such a great doctor,” said Jami Miller, MD, assistant professor of Dermatology. “With jokes and puns, he could find the fun in any situation. So, patients just loved him, and his colleagues just loved him.”

Sally Monahan, MD, assistant professor of Dermatology, said that the opportunity to continue to work with Dr. Byers was a key reason that she joined the Franklin office after her residency at VUMC.

“His humor and quick wit put everyone at ease,” Monahan said. “His calm demeanor and level-headed approach provided an invaluable steady hand that helped guide our department through some important transitions, including the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Dr. Byers graduated from Rice University in Houston and earned his MD at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, followed by a year’s training in internal medicine at VUMC, then dermatology residency at Duke University Medical Center.

Dr. Byers is survived by his wife, Janet, daughter, Jessica, sons, Daniel, Stephen and Andrew, his mother, Sybil, and his sister, Kristin Cole.

There will be a livestream of Dr. Byers’ memorial service, via YouTube, at 2 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 14, with a video loop of photos beginning around 20 minutes prior.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there will be no visitation, and attendance for the in-person service is limited. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to Harvest Hands CDC (under “Select a campaign,” click “Jeff Byers Memorial Gift”).

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