Arthur Snyder, 93, pediatrician at free North Philadelphia clinic

Posted: August 03, 2012

ARTHUR SNYDER was so athletic in his youth that he entertained serious thoughts about a career in physical education.

The idea was derailed when he was stricken with appendicitis while in middle school. He always attributed his decision to become a physician to his appendicitis attack.

This Depression-era kid, the son of immigrants from Russia, managed to get himself through college and medical school and launch a career in pediatrics, treating sick kids from here to Florida in a 50-year career that also included passing his knowledge and wisdom on to new generations as a teacher.

He died July 11 of complications of Alzheimer's disease at the age of 93. He lived in Aventura, Fla.

For a number of years in the '40s and '50s, Arthur ran a free clinic in North Philadelphia to treat sick and impoverished children. The clinic was just around the corner from his office at 6th Street and Erie Avenue. He opened it in 1944 shortly after graduating from the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicne.

As an osteopathic physician, Arthur ran into some serious discrimination in the days before DOs were accepted as legitimate members of the medical profession. For instance, when he decided to specialize in pediatrics, he found there were no residencies for DOs in that or any other speciality. He had to teach himself. He attended lectures at Temple University and read textbooks on the subject, especially Nelson's Pediatrics, which is still in use.

The instructor at Temple told him he could listen to the lectures, but not to let anyone know he was a DO.

In 1952, a medical condition again sidetracked the young physician. He contracted tuberculosis from a patient and wound up in a sanitarium in Eagleville. After his recovery, his doctor advised him to move to Florida for his health. He packed up his family and moved to Miami, which was just starting to be developed.

He set up his pediatric practice there and later gained certification in family medicine. After 26 years, he became a founding professor at Southeastern College of Osteopathic Medicine, now part of Nova Southeastern University.

When the school opened in Fort Lauderdale, he became one of the first teachers. He taught for another 25 years, receiving a number of honors, including a lifetime-achievement award in 2003. After medical school, he interned at a hospital in Brooklyn, N.Y. He and his wife then got a house in North Philadelphia, where he began to practice medicine.When the family moved to Florida their first house was on a dirt road. "So far as I know, most of the houses in Miami were on dirt roads back then," his son said.

It was in Florida that Arthur took up sculpture, golf and judo. He became a popular family physician. A former patient remarked, "Dr. Snyder was so much more than our family doctor. I will always remember his kindness and his caring. And I can still picture him in his home studio working on his sculptures."

Growing up in the Feltonville neighborhood, Arthur was famed for his athletic prowess.

"He used to run around the block 12 times," said his son, Dr. Sam Snyder. "The neighborhood kids would pace him, one kid at a time, each kid running one lap around to make sure Dad kept running."

He also became a gymnast, and the family has photos of him lifting his sister, Martha, in ballet poses on South Jersey beaches. Arthur and his late brother Sidney were members of a uniformed harmonica band that played at Franklin D. Roosevelt's second inauguration in Washington.

Arthur graduated from Olney High School at age 16 and completed studies at La Salle College, now a university, getting straight-As, in three years. He graduated from the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine in 1944.

He worked as an accountant to help put himself through school, and also received help from his parents, Max and Rose Snyder, who ran a grocery store. His father was a furrier.

While in medical school, Arthur met and married his wife, Lorraine Keiserman.

Arthur Snyder had many talents beyond his skill as a physician. "My grandfather was a modern-day Renaissance man," said his grandson, Matthew Kuttler. "A black belt in judo, a passionate golfer, a gifted sculptor, and a great physician and teacher."

He created more than 500 pieces of sculpture, which grace the homes of family members and friends.

"He loved teaching," his son said. "He loved being around the students, and he loved using his hands in osteopathic manipulation. I still have people at the college tell me about how good he was with his hands."

"We have all heard the words, from Emerson, I think, that most men die with an unsung song still in their hearts," his son said. "I do not believe that is true of my dad. He embraced every day, he threw his whole energy into his life, he loved what he did, he created purpose in his life, he sang his song."

Besides his wife and son, he is survived by three daughters, Simmy Cohen, Jessi Lichtman and Terry Goldberg; a sister, Martha Weber; six grandchildren,and one great-grandchild.

Services: Were July 13 in Hollywood, Fla.

Contact John F. Morrison ay 215-854-5573 or Follow him on Twitter at @johnfmorrison

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