Emanuel Suter, MD

Biography: Emanuel Suter, M.D.
February 7, 1918 – January 8, 2014

Emanuel Suter, MD served as the first chair of the Department of Microbiology and the second Dean at the University of Florida College of Medicine.  An innovator in medical education curricula, he  was born on February 7, 1918 in Basel, Switzerland to Clara Vischer Suter and Friedrich Suter, and passed away Wednesday, January 8, 2014..  He was the youngest of eight children and is preceded in death by his parents, his four brothers, his three sisters and his wife Joanne Flaherty Suter.  He grew up hiking and skiing in the Swiss Alps and swimming in the Rhine River after school.

Dr. Suter attended Basel’s Humanistic Gymnasium from 1928 to 1936.  Following his father’s career path, Manny started medical school in the fall of 1936.  In the summer of 1937 he passed basic training for Switzerland’s required military service, returning to medical school that fall as a reservist with the medical corps.  Due to the start of World War II in the fall of 1939 and the mobilization of Switzerland’s military, he was assigned to active duty in the medical corps as a corporal with the Gotthard Mitrailleures, a mountain unit stationed along the border with Italy.  He spent the next four years going back and forth between service in the Swiss Army and going to medical school while on study leave.  After receiving his medical degree from the University of Basel in 1945, Dr. Suter started his professional career as a research fellow in bacteriology studying tuberculosis at the Basel Institute of Hygiene.

Accepting an offer from Dr. René Dubos to continue his tuberculosis research at the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, Dr. Suter immigrated to New York City in 1949.  He moved to Boston in 1952 to join the faculty at the Harvard Medical School, where he helped develop an innovative program to integrate the teaching of the basic medical sciences with the teaching of clinical medicine.  In his second year he was one of 24 junior individuals in academic medicine in the country to be awarded a Markle Scholarship for leadership.  He became an American citizen in 1955.

He was lured away from Harvard in 1956 by the exciting opportunity to become engaged in the institution-building undertaking of starting a new medical school in Gainesville, Florida.  He was named the first Chairman of the Department of Microbiology at the University of Florida College of Medicine.  He recruited the professional and supporting staff for the department in time to greet the original incoming class of medical students that fall.  The department’s teaching programs became highly regarded, and its research nationally recognized during Dr. Suter’s chairmanship.  He was named the second dean of the College of Medicine early in 1965 and served in that capacity until 1972.  He enthusiastically chaired both the admissions committee and the curriculum committee for many of these 16 years at the College of Medicine.  He was a member of multiple regional and national scientific and medical associations, and served on the editorial boards of the American Review of Pulmonary Diseases and the Journal of Infectious Diseases.

Dr. Suter considered his greatest achievement while at the University of Florida to be in the area of civil rights.  Having believed all his life in equal rights for all people, he was appalled by the official policy of segregation in the South when he arrived in Florida in 1956.  He immediately took on a vigorous leadership role in fighting the segregation he found entrenched at all levels at the University of Florida.  It was a proud day for all when, during the 1970 graduation ceremonies, he heartily welcomed to the medical profession Florida’s first two graduating African-American medical students.  Near the end of his tenure as dean, Dr. Suter received special recognition for his “commitment to the maintenance of equality and the dignity of humanity” from the University of Florida Black Students Health Professions Coalition.

In 1972, Dr. Suter left the University of Florida and moved with his family to McLean, Virginia where he became the Director of the Division of International Education at the Association of American Medical Colleges.  This was followed by rewarding work with the Veterans Administration’s Continuing Education Center in Washington, D.C. from 1984 to 1991.  As director of its Rehabilitation Education Project, he planned and organized continuing education symposia to build teamwork among the different rehabilitation related services provided by the Veterans Administration.  Dr. Suter returned to the University of Florida College of Medicine as a resident educational consultant from 1991 to 1997, where he organized a successful re-accreditation review while leading the College of Medicine’s new initiative to develop a stronger infrastructure for its educational mission.  Reflecting on the collaborative and innovative nature of his work during these years, he often said that they were the most invigorating and enjoyable years of his career in academic medicine.