David S. Newcombe ’52 died June 11, 2010.
(view alumni profile - Log-in required)



            David died unexpectedly June 11 at his home in Weston, Mass. David was a true gentleman and a gentle man. He was a good man, a good husband, a good father, a good physician and a good Amherst man.

            He was born in Boston, and after graduating from the Roxbury Latin School in 1948, it was off to Amherst. He majored, of course, in biology, and as he himself noted, the grind kept his nose in books and he couldn’t socialize as much as he wanted. But David was thankful for “all the great people I never knew in college but with whom I have been fortunate to share friendships later on.” This applies to me. I really “met” David, even though we were both Phi Gams, at a reunion.

            David earned an M.D., C.M. from McGill University in 1956 and then served as captain in the U.S. Army in Korea. He was an intern at Boston City Hospital and assistant resident at Duke University Medical Center. He then studied biological chemistry at Harvard. Then on to become a full professor at Johns Hopkins.

            David was incredibly busy, in addition to an internal medicine practice specializing in rheumatology, he taught, wrote articles and even a just-finished book on gout. David was particularly pleased with his healing work for his buddies behind bars at the federal prison.

            After the sad death of his first wife, he was really lucky to meet and marry the Norwegian beauty, Sissel, and they were married 45 years. They were blessed with no less than three lovely daughters: Catherine Newcombe ’88 of Washington, D.C.; Kiki Shilling of Lincoln, Mass.; and Sarah Faucett of Weston, Mass., not to overlook five grandchildren.

            David is lovingly missed by all his family and many friends.

—Peter Rowland ’52



Dr. David Newcombe, 80, renowned rheumatologist
By Talia Whyte, Globe Correspondent  |  July 10, 2010


David Sudgen Newcombe, whose work brought him into contact with criminals and within viewing distance of North Korean soldiers, had a passion for medicine, family, and giving back to others.

Dr. Newcombe, a renowned rheumatologist from Weston, died June 11 at Lahey Clinic in Burlington, after suffering a heart attack. He was 80.

“David Newcombe was a gentleman in the old-fashioned sense of the word,’’ said family friend Nandy Black of Lincoln.

“He was patriotic, honest, hardworking, and exacting. Underneath a sometimes gruff exterior was a tender, loving heart. I’m sure he gave to his patients a large measure of the devotion he had for his family and friends.’’

Dr. Newcombe was born in Boston, spent his formative years in West Roxbury, and graduated from Roxbury Latin School in 1948.

His wife and friends said that his time at the private college preparatory high school provided him with the impetus to pursue a career in medicine.

“He held the school in high regard,’’ said Rod Boyer, Roxbury Latin’s assistant director of development.

“He appreciated the opportunities the school provided him, which helped him excel in school and in life.’’

Dr. Newcombe received a bachelor’s degree in biology from Amherst College in 1952 and a degree in medicine from McGill University in Montreal in 1956. In 1957, he was a captain in the US Army stationed in Uijongbu, South Korea. Dr. Newcombe was based in the Camp Red Cloud, a US military base not far from the Korean Demilitarization Zone (DMZ).

“He would always tell me stories about getting so close to the DMZ that he was able to see North Korean soldiers spying,’’ said his wife, Sissel (Ostgard), of Weston.

In 1958, Dr. Newcombe returned home to begin his medical career in earnest, first as a research fellow at what is now Boston Medical Center and as a resident at Duke University Medical School. In the 1960s and early 1970s, Dr. Newcombe held positions at the University of Virginia and the University of Vermont, where he sharpened his knowledge of rheumatology.

In 1977, Dr. Newcombe became a professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions in Baltimore, where he spent most of his career as a physician and educator in internal medicine, rheumatology, occupational medicine, and toxicology.

During his tenure, he published numerous medical and scientific articles, including “Inherited Disorders and Uric Acid Metabolism’’ in 1975. He contributed research on gout to several editions of “The Principles and Practice of Medicine’’ in the 1980s.

Dr. Newcombe retired from Johns Hopkins in 1992 and became a consultant for General Electric in Pittsfield, providing advice on improving occupational health for employees.

He also was a clinician at the VA Medical Center in Bedford and later a staff physician at the Federal Bureau of Prisons at Fort Devens.

According to his wife, his time in the prison system was the highlight of his career.

“He was always interested in crime and the mob,’’ said Mrs. Newcombe. “The Brink’s robbery back in 1950 intrigued his interest, so being in the federal prison, he saw these criminals up close and personal.’’

Dr. Newcombe also maintained a balanced social and family life.

“He was a husband and father full time,’’ Mrs. Newcombe said. He loved photography and traveling abroad. He was also quite the storyteller at dinner parties.’’

And Dr. Newcombe always was willing to help his Roxbury Latin classmates.

Roger Sullivan of Hingham graduated with Dr. Newcombe and remembers chatting with him at reunions about the old school days.

Sullivan said he went to his classmate a few years ago with a serious health dilemma that required special care.

“He was an incredible and courageous man,’’ Sullivan said. “My wife developed breast cancer, and we didn’t know what to do. He consulted with us and introduced us to a friend of his who just so happened to be the best breast cancer specialist in our area. We were very grateful.’’

In 2000, Dr. Newcombe retired from medical practice to pursue his longtime goal of writing a book about gout. He completed the untitled book a week before his death. Mrs. Newcombe said she is looking for a publisher.

In addition to his wife of 45 years, Dr. Newcombe leaves his daughters Catherine of Washington, D.C., Kiki Shilling of Lincoln, and Sarah Faucett of Weston.

A memorial service will be held Wednesday at 10 a.m. at the First Parish Church in Weston.