Samay Jain, MD, MS, died September 8, 2016 at the age of 42. He had accomplished much, and was a rising star in the field of movement disorders, but did not have the time to reach his full professional potential. However, in his short life he touched those around him, as shown by the hundreds of family, friends, and professional colleagues who came at short notice from across the USA for his memorial service. As one of his friends said, “Samay was a candle that burned at both ends; he burned twice as bright, but twice as fast.”
Samay grew up in Morgantown, West Virginia, and was a graduate of the University of Virginia where he studied Cognitive Science and Neuroscience. After college, he spent 2 months studying Ayurvedic medicine and classical performing arts of India at the University of Pune in India. He attended medical school at the University of Virginia and completed his neurology residency training at the Cleveland Clinic, followed by his movement disorders fellowship at Columbia University under the direction of Stanley Fahn. After completing his training, Samay was recruited by several top academic institutions. We were fortunate that he chose to join us at the University of Pittsburgh in 2006, as Assistant Professor of Neurology and Clinical Director of the Movement Disorders Division. In coming to Pittsburgh, Samay saw possibilities even those who recruited him did not see. Although he was the young newcomer, he made things happen – often things that we did not know were possible or necessary. And these things were always accomplished quietly, without fanfare, or complaint. Samay started our ever-expanding registry of research subjects. He started our Movement Disorders Grand Rounds program, in which interesting or difficult cases are presented to the movement disorders faculty, fellows, residents and students. And he developed, initiated, and directed our Movement Disorders Fellowship program, which now draws outstanding applicants from across the nation. These key things, that we now take for granted, that seem like they have always been part of our program, and which are now part of our identity as an academic group, were created and nurtured to fruition by Samay.
Samay wanted to undergo further training in clinical research and became the first neurologist accepted into the highly competitive Masters program offered by the University of Pittsburgh’s Clinical & Translational Research Institute. His research interests included risk factors and non-motor aspects of Parkinson’s disease. He was particularly fascinated by non-motor features of PD, so he simply built a laboratory to study them – and he obtained funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to do so.
Samay loved his work and his academic pursuits. Over the last year and a half or so, despite his illness and fatigue, it was hard to stop him from continuing to work at what he was passionate about. Three months before he died, he submitted his first R01 grant application to the NIH. This is an exhausting, grueling exercise for anyone under the best of circumstances, but he managed to do it. He wanted so badly to see it scored and to read his reviews, and as late as the day before his death, he asked when it was going to be reviewed.
Samay was always generous with his time and somehow he had an eternally positive spirit. He was kind and gentle and honest – and he had a laugh that was contagious. We, his colleagues, will remember Samay with great affection. His patients and colleagues alike recognized Samay as an outstanding neurologist, and he was selected as one of the Best Doctors in America – and also selected by Pittsburgh Magazine as one of the Best Doctors in Pittsburgh. Characteristic of Samay’s humility, his wife Mala did not know of these honors until she read about them in an obituary posted by the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center where he worked.
In addition to his clinical and academic pursuits, Samay enjoyed travelling, the outdoors, photography, carpentry, filmmaking, cooking, swimming and running. Most of all, though, he was a devoted husband, son, and father, who cherished the time he spent with his daughter, Iyla. There was nothing he enjoyed more than bringing a smile to her face.
When Mala and Samay called two days before his passing to tell us that Samay was discontinuing treatment and going home from the hospital, he said, “I am grateful for the life I’ve had.” Samay died far too young. In Sanskrit, Samay means “the appointed or proper time, the right moment”. His life was much too short - but we are profoundly grateful that he shared part of it with us.
In Samay’s memory, we are honored to announce the establishment of the annual Samay Jain Memorial Lectureship in Movement Disorders, which will bring international experts to Pittsburgh to deliver a lecture named for Samay and to visit what he created.
Samay is survived by his wife, Mala, and his daughter, Iyla.