Skip to main content

Physician, author, humanitarian Meador dies at 90

Oct. 13, 2021, 2:31 PM


by Kathy Whitney

Clifton Meador, MD

Clifton Meador, MD, professor of Medicine, Emeritus, died Oct. 11. He was 90.

An endocrinologist, Dr. Meador practiced and taught medicine for over 60 years before retiring in 2012.

Dr. Meador was a prolific writer, having authored 15 books and a number of satiric articles and essays on modern American medicine.

He particularly enjoyed caring for patients with difficult-to-diagnose diseases, those that fell under the category of medical mysteries or possessed symptoms but had no disease. He recorded his experiences in his books “Symptoms of Unknown Origin,” “Puzzling Symptoms,” and “Fascinomas — fascinating medical mysteries.” He also published a 2019 revision of “A Little Book of Doctors’ Rules” and his memoir “Sketches of a Small Town … circa 1940.”

A graduate of Vanderbilt University in 1952 and the School of Medicine in 1955, Dr. Meador trained at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York, and after two years in the U.S. Army Medical Corp, he returned to Vanderbilt to complete his residency and fellowship in endocrinology. In 1962 he joined the faculty at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, where he was professor of Medicine and then dean of the University of Alabama School of Medicine at UAB from 1968 to 1973. He returned to Nashville, serving as chief of medicine and chief medical officer of Saint Thomas Hospital from 1973 to 1998.

“Clif Meador was the real deal,” said André Churchwell, MD, Chief Diversity Officer for Vanderbilt University. “His interests in people and his commitment to honoring humanity and the humanities served as a model for all of us to follow. His books and medical humanities writings served as a window to his soul and through this window, he continually entreated us to bring the best of ourselves to work every day.”

Dr. Meador served as the first executive director of the Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance from 1999 to 2012. Founded in 1999, the Alliance bridges the institutions of Meharry Medical College and Vanderbilt University Medical Center. At the Alliance, he was one of the founders and first chairman of the Consortium of Safety Net Providers of Middle Tennessee, a consortium of 23 clinics that served uninsured people.

The Clifton K. Meador Community Health Leadership Award was named in his honor and is given to an individual in the community whose leadership and accomplishments have contributed significantly to improving access to quality health care for low-income, uninsured people in Nashville and the surrounding area.

“Dr. Meador was the consummate physician, clinician, educator and leader — calm, caring, wise and very fair. Clif lived Vanderbilt Medical School’s mission on a daily basis as a lifelong learner who regarded all patients, students, residents and fellow colleagues with respect,” said Ann Price, MD, physician liaison for Vanderbilt Medical Alumni Affairs and a former student of Dr. Meador’s.

“He taught us to listen carefully, whether related to patient care or to disputes among colleagues, and reserve judgment until all data had been gathered and all points of view had been heard. Dr. Meador’s legacy will endure as those he taught teach others to listen, to question, to think and ultimately to take principled action like he did.”

Dr. Meador is survived by his wife, Ann Cowden Meador, seven children, Ann’s three sons, seven grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. A memorial service will be held on Saturday, Oct. 30, at 2 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church, 4815 Franklin Pike. Visitation will be Friday, Oct. 29, from 5 to 7 p.m. and one hour prior to the memorial service.

Memorial gifts may be made to the Clifton K. Meador Education Fund at the Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance or by mail to 3322 West End Avenue, Suite 900, Nashville, TN 37203.

Recent Stories from VUMC News and Communications Publications

Vanderbilt Medicine
VUMC Voice