Legend lost: Dr. William T. Shearer passes leaving a legacy in pediatric immunology

October 10, 2018

The medical community lost a legend on October 9, 2018, with the death of Dr. William T. Shearer, 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. Dr. Shearer was 81.

Shearer was an internationally-respected leader in the field of allergy and immunology. One of the things he is best known for was providing innovative care to Texas Children’s most famous patient – David “The Bubble Boy” Vetter – which led to revolutionary immunologic discoveries.

Throughout his lengthy career, Shearer pursued his passions in basic and clinical research in primary and secondary immunodeficiency with continuous funding from the National Institutes of Health during his 40-year tenure at Texas Children’s. He authored over 500 journal articles and textbook chapters, and was the editor-in-chief of the world’s premier textbook of clinical immunology for more than 20 years.

Shearer served in leadership positions with virtually every major professional organization concerned with patient care, training and research in pediatric immunology and HIV/AIDS. He was active in clinical research for children with HIV infection and participated in numerous pioneering studies in the prevention and treatment of the disease and its complications. Shearer was passionate about this work and continuously pursued research in this area until his passing.

For many who knew him, Shearer was described by his colleagues as an incredibly compassionate mentor. Throughout his career, he mentored 117 trainees as the Program Director of the Allergy and Immunology Fellowship Training Program at Texas Children’s and Baylor College of Medicine.

“It was my good fortune to work side-by-side with Dr. Shearer for many years,” said Texas Children’s Physician-in-Chief Dr. Mark W. Kline. “No one worked harder or was more dedicated to his patients and trainees than Bill. I learned an enormous amount from him during the formative stages of my career development. He was a mentor and friend for nearly 30 years, and I will miss him tremendously.”

Shearer received many prestigious awards for his work as a clinician, researcher and mentor including a Research Scholar Award from the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, a Faculty Research Award from the American Cancer Society, and the Arnold J. Rudolph – Baylor Pediatric Award for Lifetime Excellence in Teaching. In addition to these accolades, Shearer received the 2017 Clinical Immunology Society Distinguished Service Award.

“It is truly an honor to be able to witness the incredible passion and productivity of this international leader, eminent immunologist, superlative teacher and incredibly compassionate mentor,” said Dr. Carla Davis, chief of Immunology, Allergy and Rheumatology Service at Texas Children’s. “We will all miss him dearly.”

Because of Shearer’s care of David Vetter, he and the late Dr. Ralph D. Feigin wanted to create a lasting tribute in David’s memory, the David Vetter Memorial Fund. The David’s Dream Run was founded by the David Elementary School and the Parent Teacher Organization to support this Memorial Fund.

Click here to make a donation to the David Vetter Memorial Fund in memory of Dr. Shearer. Donations made in memory of Dr. Shearer will benefit the Memorial Fund which is dedicated to research, diagnosis and treatment of immune deficiencies.