Dr. Gross was one of the most highly esteemed leaders in the field of hematology/oncology. Among his over 200 manuscripts were papers advancing our understanding of neonatal hematology, sickle cell disease, hemophilia, management of children with leukemia and neuroblastoma, and the use of bone marrow transplantation as a therapeutic modality for children with cancer. Dr. Gross’s work in the areas of stem cell biology, Vitamin E and its role in hemolysis, clinical transplantation, and the role of marrow purging in pediatric transplantation formed the basis of our current understanding of these areas. His work even resulted in a patent for a new Hematopoietic growth factor-Uteroferrin, derived from porcine uterus. Dr. Gross received an undergraduate degree in Biology and Chemistry at Bowdoin College, a master’s in Experimental Embryology at Amherst, and his MD degree at the University of Rochester. After a stint in the Marines during WWII, Dr. Gross began his career at Rainbow Children’s Hospital, Case Western Reserve University as an intern and advancing to be Professor of Pediatrics, and director of the bone marrow transplant program before moving to the University of Florida in 1981 as Division Chief and fellowship director.
Dr. Gross was a man of passion, a man of remarkable compassion for his patients and an extraordinary educator. Not that he provided the information easily, Dr. Gross certainly believed in the Socratic method of teaching and would make you work for the answer- but you would also understand the issue completely. In fact, after retiring as Emeritus Professor from the University of Florida in 1993, he continued to focus on his role as an educator-writing a book entitled Hematology: A Problem-Oriented Approach to aid medical students and pediatric residents in learning about pediatric hematology and oncology. He continued his teaching of medical students and pediatric residents at UF, Nemours, Walt Disney Memorial Cancer Center, the University of North Carolina, and Duke University as well as the American Board of Pediatrics. Dr. Gross also worked tirelessly to promote collaboration and sharing of knowledge- organizing a series of international conferences on Bone Marrow Purging and Processing. Among his many awards, the one he was most proud of was receiving the John J Kimmey award for excellence in research and education from the Leukemia Society of America.
Dr. Paul Pitel, at Nemours in Jacksonville and a long-term friend of Dr. Gross, talked of a wire sculpture that sat on Sam’s desk. It was given to Dr. Gross by a patient who had died after a long battle with osteogenic sarcoma. When Dr. Pitel asked about the sculpture, Sam replied, “I keep this here because it always reminds me how little we really know.”
There were many other ways in which Dr. Gross served as a mentor to many. Whether the need was program development, legislative advocacy, or research ideas, Dr. Gross was finding solutions. When additional funding was required to support the research and programmatic goals of the Division, Dr. Gross worked with a group of parents to develop Stop! Children’s Cancer, a not-for-profit dedicated to supporting the needs of the pediatric oncology patients at the University of Florida and the programs and research of the division. Stop! Children’s Cancer continues to thrive and provide much-needed support for the division.
Jerry Janic, a long-term member of the H/O division, said that one of Dr. Gross‘s most impressive traits was his compassion. “I remember that when we had a patient for whom we had done all that we could, it was Dr. Gross who would sit with the parents and gently help them realize the end was near.” Another example was his tireless efforts while in Cleveland to found a Ronald McDonald House in the area to help the families of children requiring extended medical visits. He also cared deeply about his colleagues, fellows and staff, their families, and their careers. Always making sure to ask how things were going, help where he could, and -of course always offer advice.