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Obituary: Michael C. Purdy, 47, medical sciences writer

April 15, 2016

Michael C. Purdy
Michael C. Purdy

Michael C. Purdy, who for more than a decade was dedicated to explaining the intricacies of medical and scientific discoveries at Washington University School of Medicine, died April 14, 2016, in St. Peters, Mo. He was 47.

Purdy, a medical sciences writer in the Office of Medical Public Affairs, died of an inoperable brain tumor.

At the medical school, his writing spanned research discoveries in pathology and immunology, medical microbiology, cell biology, radiology and — most personal to him — neurology. As a teen, he underwent surgery to remove a brain tumor — one of the reasons he went on to write about science, and neurology in particular.

Purdy covered some of the biggest health stories at the School of Medicine in the past decade: the first clinical trial of drug treatments to prevent Alzheimer’s disease; the link between the mix of microbes in the gut and obesity; the growing problem of antibiotic resistance; and the emergence of certain infectious diseases.

While he enjoyed focusing on the details of science, he also delighted in writing about the researchers themselves and showed a knack for clever, colorful storytelling.

“Michael did a superb job covering stories about neurological disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease and many others,” said David Holtzman, MD, head of the Department of Neurology. “It is difficult to explain abnormalities of the brain to a lay audience, and Michael had a real knack for doing this. On top of all this, he was a very kind and thoughtful person with the highest level of integrity.”

Purdy earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and went on to work as a writer at Ames Lab, a Department of Energy laboratory administered by Iowa State University; Johns Hopkins University; and then Washington University. While at the School of Medicine, he took night classes at Webster University, in pursuit of a master’s degree in education. He was very close to earning his degree.

He was an active member of Mensa and the National Association of Science Writers. In his spare time, he enjoyed photography, comic books, movies, playing pinball, reading, and walking his beloved rescue dog, Elvis.

He is survived by his parents, Thomas and Barbara Purdy (nee Bauer); his sister, Dana (Brian) Clemson; four nephews he adored, Joshua, Dylan, Austin and Brice Clemson; and several aunts, uncles and cousins.

Visitation will be from 4-8 p.m. Monday, April 18, at Baue Funeral & Memorial Center, 3950 West Clay St., St. Charles, Missouri, and from 9:30-10:30 a.m. Tuesday, April 19, at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church, 2 Seton Court, St. Charles. A funeral Mass will follow at 10:30 a.m. April 19 at the church.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Department of Neurology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.