Sidney (Sid) M. Gospe, Jr, MD, PhD, was born in San Francisco, California and spent his childhood and early school days in the City by the Bay. An avid fan of the San Francisco Giants and the 49ers, Sid’s fondest childhood memories come from attending baseball and football games at Candlestick Park and Kezar Stadium. At the latter, he could obtain an endzone seat for just 50¢ and a milk carton ticket! At Candlestick, he saw a game of the 1962 World Series which included future Hall of Famers Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal, and Orlando Cepeda for the Giants; and Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra and Whitey Ford for the New York Yankees. Sadly for Sid, the Yankees won the series!
Surrounded by medical professionals – his father and two brothers were physicians, and his mother had attended nursing school for a time – Sid’s future as a physician-scientist was cast at a very early age. He worked summers during high school and college processing specimens for a pathologist, an activity that further cemented his desire to pursue a medical career. He maintained this interest during his college years at Stanford University and there, Sid developed an affection for research and the neurosciences. After receiving a BS with distinction and MS in the biological sciences from Stanford, he entered the Medical Scientist Training Program at Duke University where he would receive a PhD in Physiology and Pharmacology in 1980 and an MD in 1981; his dissertation: “Pharmacological Studies of a Novel Dopamine Receptor Mediating Burst-Firing Inhibition of Neurosecretory Cell R-15 in Aplysia californica.” Sid’s medical school experiences in neuroanatomy further stimulated his interest in the neurosciences, and his final clinical rotation in pediatrics convinced him that working with children brought the greatest joy. Fortunately for us all, his path led to child neurology!
Upon graduation from medical school Sid matched in pediatrics at the Baylor College of Medicine and subsequently joined an exceedingly-talented group of child neurology trainees (which included Drs. Tallie Baram, Bill Dobyns, and Huda Zoghbi) in the Baylor Pediatric Neurology Program. Among his many influential teachers and mentors were Drs. Marv Fishman, Alan Percy and Dan Glaze. This remarkable and stimulating educational, clinical and research environment served Sid well. After completing child neurology training, Sid would spend a year in Albany, New York, before returning to California to accept a position at the University of California, Davis School of Medicine in 1987. He received lifetime certifications from the American Board of Pediatrics (ABP) and the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN) with Special Qualification in Child Neurology in 1987 and 1988, respectively. His participation with the Boards and commitment to education and self-improvement would lead later to voluntary recertifications in both Boards.
At UC Davis, Sid continued his trajectory toward prominence in child neurology, rising rapidly through the academic ranks to tenure in 1991 and Professor of Neurology and Pediatrics in 1997. During this time he participated actively as an investigator and mentor in the UC Davis graduate program in Pharmacology and Toxicology. In 1991 he became Director of the Child Neurology section at Davis, a position which enabled him to have a profound impact on the careers of young trainees. Receipt of numerous teaching awards from the UC Davis Department of Pediatrics and election to Alpha Omega Alpha as a faculty member underscored Sid’s talents as an educator and mentor.
Sid continued his research interests in neurotoxicology during his days at UC Davis and began to focus his investigations on pyridoxine-dependent epilepsy, a condition for which he would gain an international reputation. He competed successfully for numerous intramural and extramural research awards, and his list of publications grew substantially. His notable contributions to neuroscience, of which there are many, include “Reduced GABA synthesis in pyridoxine-dependent seizures,” Lancet 1994; “Longitudinal MRI findings in pyridoxine-dependent seizures,” Neurology 1998; “Glial localization of antiquitin: Implications for pyridoxine-dependent epilepsy,” Annals of Neurology 2014; and “Intragenic deletions of ALDH7A1 in pyridoxine-dependent epilepsy caused by Alu-Alu recombination,” Neurology 2015. In total, Sid has published more than 100 scientific papers and has written numerous book chapters on pyridoxine-dependent epilepsy and other metabolic or toxic disorders of the developing brain.
In 2000 Sid moved further up the West Coast and accepted a position at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle, as Professor of Neurology and Pediatrics, Head of the Division of Pediatric Neurology, and recipient of the Herman and Faye Sarkowsky Endowed Chair in Child Neurology. This transition enabled Sid’s career and prominence in child neurology to blossom, and with this move came the opportunity to guide both trainees and junior faculty. Under his leadership, the Division of Pediatric Neurology at the University of Washington flourished, growing from just five to more than 20 faculty members, and the pediatric neurology training program grew from one position per year to three. During his tenure at the University of Washington, Sid would help train 34 residents in child neurology, many of whom have since gained prominence in their own right as educators, clinicians and investigators. His remarkable accomplishments as program director led to presentatikon of the CNS-PCN Blue Bird Circle Training Director Award at the Child Neurology Society Annual Meeting in Kansas Citty in 2017. Building the University of Washington Division of Pediatric Neurology and watching the faculty he recruited achieve success are among his most satisfying career moments.
Although extremely busy with the day-to-day, sometimes mundane aspects of running a highly-successful pediatric neurology division, Sid continued to contribute broadly to the disciplines of pediatrics and pediatric neurology. He served for many years on the editorial board of Pediatric Neurology, becoming Senior Associate Editor in 2013, and since 2015, he has served as Associate Editor of Pediatric Research. He gives of his time selflessly, reviewing manuscripts for numerous journals, including Annals of Neurology, Brain, Journal of Child Neurology, Journal of Pediatrics, Neurology, Pediatric Neurology and Pediatrics. His capacity and commitment to quality in education enabled him to participate in numerous committees of the ABP, including the often-maligned Maintenance of Certification Committee. Sid also served for many years as a child neurology examiner for the ABPN. Most recently, he serves as an Associate Editor of Question of the Week, a maintenance of certification activity of the ABP. Sid’s dedication to these extramural endeavors ensures educational and scientific rigor for pediatricians and child neurologists alike.
A true, triple-threat academician, Sid has had a marvelous career as a clinician-educator. He received teaching awards at both of his career stops, UC Davis and the University of Washington, and his contributions as an educator led to the prestigious Parker J. Palmer Courage to Teach Award from the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education which Sid received in 2014. His clinical expertise garnered him recognition as one of America’s Best Doctors for many years. Some of his most memorable experiences as a clinician came from his participation in the University of Washington’s WWAMI (Washington-Wyoming-Alaska-Montana-Idaho) program. He made more than 100 trips to clinics in Alaska during his 17 years in Seattle. In Sid’s own words, he felt that “working with the native Alaska population (the Yupik in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta and the Tlingit in Southeast Alaska) was an absolute privilege”. And exciting, too. He ate caribou stew and Eskimo salad dressed with seal oil and went ice fishing with the locals while stranded, albeit temporarily, in Bethel, Alaska.
Sid remained dedicated not only to his faculty colleagues and trainees, but to his family, as well. Married to his wife, Mary, for more than 40 years, Sid counts among his greatest accomplishments their two successful children (one, a math assessment specialist, and the other, a clinician-scientist like his dad) and their three grandchildren. In fact, his move to Durham, North Carolina, his current location, arose from a strong desire to be close to family. In retirement, Sid enjoys theater, music and pleasure reading. As an Adjunct Professor of Pediatrics, he helps mentor child neurology residents in the Duke program. He also fills his time with scholarly pursuits, continuing to work with Seattle colleagues on imaging in pyridoxine-dependent epilepsy and collaborating with the International Pyridoxine Dependent Epilepsy Consortium based in Denver, Vancouver, London and the Netherlands.