A Great Legacy: Miles Q. Fiterman

Miles Q. Fiterman was born in Thief River Falls, Minnesota, and spent most of his childhood and early adulthood in Minneapolis. He attended the University of Minnesota Law School and in 1946 founded the company called Miles Pre-cut Homes; it was the first of its kind, and due to his skillful entrepreneurship, the company flourished. He met Shirley, his sweetheart of 62 years, when they were both 16; and they raised four children: Steven, Valerie, Lynn and Karen, and enjoyed 11 grandchildren. Miles and Shirley developed a particular interest in gastroenterology when their three-year-old daughter was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis and was treated by Dr. Joseph Kirsner, a longstanding friend of the Fitermans.

In 1958, Mr. Fiterman established and funded the national Foundation for Research in Ulcerative Colitis, which for the first time, prepared and published research abstracts on studies being conducted into the causes of ulcerative colitis and other inflammatory bowel diseases. This task was eventually taken over and is still being performed by the National Institutes of Health. In addition to abstract publication, the Foundation funded the first U.S.-based epidemiological study on ulcerative colitis, conducted by Dr. Albert Mendeloff at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

With a strong belief in the importance of basic scientific research, Mr. Fiterman along with several prominent gastroenterologists, helped to organize the first National Institutes of Health study section on gastroenterological disorders in the late 1950s. Mr. Fiterman was instrumental in bringing together researchers active in gastroenterological topics and in organizing medical conferences. As a result of his experience and leadership, Mr. Fiterman was invited to testify before Congress on the need for more federal funding of research into inflammatory bowel diseases.

Mr. Fiterman’s experience and leadership also led to his longstanding association with the AGA. In 1967, the AGA named Mr. Fiterman the first lay member of the society. To honor the outstanding scholarship of two AGA members with whom he developed close personal and professional relationships, Mr. Fiterman endowed two AGA Foundation for Digestive Health and Nutrition (FDHN) research awards: The Joseph B. Kirsner Award in Gastroenterology and the Hugh R. Butt Awards in Hepatology or Nutrition. In addition to these clinical awards, Mr. Fiterman also established two FDHN awards to support investigators conducting basic research.

Mr. Fiterman’s generosity extends well beyond the medical field. In 1986, he and his wife founded the Miles and Shirley Fiterman Charitable Foundation which provides funding for education and the arts, in addition to medical research. In 1994, Mr. Fiterman donated a building valued at $31 million to the Borough of Manhattan Community College. In 1997, he and Shirley were listed among the 100 most generous Americans for lifetime giving by The American Benefactor and received the publication’s Benjamin Franklin award for Philanthropy.

Miles Fiterman was a founding board member of the FDHN and served on the board until his death in June 2004. He was 84 years old. To many in the gastroenterology field, Mr. Fiterman represented the best of humankind. This is the great legacy he leaves to all of us.

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