BAR HARBOR — Samuel Mickle Fox III, MD, cardiologist, past president and distinguished fellow of the American College of Cardiology, former chief of the Heart Disease Control Program of the U.S. Public Health Service, executive board member of the President’s Council of Physical Fitness, doctor to the first U.S. astronauts, and winner of the 1974 American Health Foundation’s Eleanor Naylor Dana Award for Preventive Medicine, died on Wednesday, April 22, 2015, in Bar Harbor, at the age of 92. The cause was complications of congestive heart failure. Dr. Fox lived in Birch Bay Village, a retirement community for which he was on the planning board. He and his wife, Dr. Mary Alice Vann Fox, earlier retired to the town of Mount Desert, from Bethesda, Md.
Dr. Fox was born in Andalusia, Pa., the younger child of Samuel Mickle Fox Jr. and Francenia Allibone Randall Fox. He attended Haverford College; his photographic memory and knowledge of ships, evidenced by an essay published in Naval Proceedings, attracted the Navy’s attention. He became a commissioned ensign of the U.S. Naval Reserve in 1942, and advanced to Commander, Medical Corps, U.S. Navy, in 1957. He graduated from Haverford in 1944 and medical school at the University of Pennsylvania, where he met Mary Alice Vann, also a student. Wed in 1949, they had four children.
He was acting chief of gastroenterology at the National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, 1950 to 1951, where he translated knowledge of heart rhythms obtained during endoscopy into an interest in cardiology. He served at the Office of Naval Research in London for the Naval Forces in Europe, the Atlantic, and Mediterranean from 1951 to 53, where he became interested in physical activity and the prevention of heart disease. He became the chief of the cardiology service at the Naval Medical Center, 1953 to 1954, and was head of the Department of Clinical Investigation at the U.S. Naval Medical Research Unit in Cairo, 1954 to 1956; chief of cardiology at the U.S. Naval Hospital, Portsmouth, Va., 1956 to 1957; and senior staff of the cardiodynamics section at the National Heart Institute of NIH, Bethesda Naval Hospital, 1957 to 1962, where he developed an in-patient cardiac rehabilitation program. He served as physician for America’s first astronauts in NASA’s Project Mercury (1960 to 1964) and monitored the first manned space mission from a tracking station in Zanzibar. During this time, he worked at the U.S. Public Health Service’s heart disease control program (HDCP) where he soon became chief.
Colleagues William Haskell and Henry Blackburn credited him with putting physical activity on the research agenda while advancing clinical methods in cardiac disease diagnosis and developing quantitative measures of health and fitness. After setting up Georgetown University Hospital’s Cardiac Rehabilitation Lab, he became professor and director of the Preventive Cardiology Program. A longstanding member of the American College of Sports Medicine and eventually vice-president, he published “Coronary Heart Disease: Prevention, Detection, Rehabilitation, with Emphasis on Exercise Testing” in 1974, a landmark reference on cardiac disease and prevention. He appeared on the PBS special “My Heart, Your Heart,” with Jim Lehrer and, at age 65, on Washington Post’s list of the 10 fittest people in Washington, D.C. He was president of the American College of Cardiology 1972 to 1973; consulted for the US Navy, US Air Force, U.S. Army, NASA, VA, FAA, Department of Health and Human Services, Department Transportation, Department State, D.C. General Hospital, Asian-Pacific Cardiology Society, World Health Organization, Olympic Committee, National Jogging Association, National Ski Patrol; and was a member of Alpha Omega Alpha.
Sam enjoyed travel, international conferences and friendships, downhill and cross-country skiing, whitewater canoeing, windsurfing, tennis at Edgemoor Tennis Club, biking to work and spending time with his family. After retiring, he was president of the Causeway Club in Southwest Harbor, on the Planning Board for Mount Desert Island, and president of the residents’ group of Birch Bay Village.
Dr. Fox was predeceased by his wife of almost 62 years, a pediatrician; he is survived by Elizabeth M. Fox, of Cambridge, Mass., and her daughter, Edith R. Zimmerman; John M. Fox, of Stafford, Va., his wife Maria, children John (and wife Kimberley), Patrick, and Cecilia; Samuel M. Fox IV, of Fairfield, Conn., his wife, Andrea Boissevain, daughters Emma and Sarah; Emily R. Fox Conant, M.D., her husband, Jonathan Conant, of Philadelphia, children Hannah, Alice and Samuel; and a great-grandson.
A memorial service is planned for July 4.
Donations may be sent to MDI Hospital, P.O. Box 8, Bar Harbor, ME 04609.
Arrangements by Jordan-Fernald, 1139 Main St., Mount Desert.
Condolences may be expressed at www.jordanfernald.com.