Island doctor retires after 30 years

‘Fearless leader’ says goodbye to hospital, but not to helping people.

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After 30 years as a family practice specialist in association with the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, Dr. Henry Nieder said an emotional goodbye to his friends and co-workers at his retirement party Monday.

All of the hospital staff at the party expressed similar sentiments regarding Nieder’s departure from the tight-knit medical community; he has left a lasting impression on everyone who knows him.

But each person who spoke about Nieder had different stories to tell — each exemplifying his passion for medicine and the joy he found in helping people.

Dave Caron, director of the pharmacy at the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, said Nieder is leaving “big shoes to fill,” as he was not only a great doctor, but a great person.

“He has always been such a big part of the hospital, but also the Island community,” Caron said. “Henry wanted a close relationship with those he worked with, he wanted to know everyone and work together with everyone.”

Many hospital employees saw Nieder as a kind and supportive mentor who would do anything to make someone feel comfortable.

Alice Thompson thanked Nieder for all he’s done for the community and the hospital. “He will be missed. He’s an old-school, real, caring physician,” Thompson said. “Anyone that puts that much into helping others is a hero.”

“This is a sad day for me,” Dr. Pieter Pil said. “Henry and I go back over 16 years.”

As is customary whenever someone retires from the hospital, a hardwood chair made in Massachusetts was dedicated to Nieder, although Pil was uncertain he would ever use it. “As I’m sure you all know, Dr. Nieder bikes to work every day — he is not a person who sits often,” Pil said as people laughed and nodded their heads.

Pil recalled an incident five years earlier when he and Nieder saved a patient’s life. The patient, a maker of fine handmade fountain pens, gave Pil a pen made of rare kingwood from Brazil. He bequeathed the fountain pen to Nieder at his retirement, noting his love for fountain pens, as well as his love for Brazil and other faraway places.

Cathy Brennan said she worked with Nieder for 13 years in family medicine. “He has been a good doctor. He is a good man with a wonderful family, and will be missed dearly by all of us,” Brennan said.

According to Dr. Julia Stunkel, Nieder’s practice is the longest running on Martha’s Vineyard. “From 1988 till now, Henry has dedicated his career to caring for not only his patients, but for members of the hospital,” Stunkel said.

Nieder’s dedication to the hospital can be seen “in his willingness to act as chief during a difficult time,” Stunkel said. “He is our fearless leader, and always had the courage to speak up if he thought something needed to change.”

She joked about Nieder’s motto around the hospital: “Often wrong, never in doubt.”

“I look up to him and thank him for everything,” she said.

After everyone had their chance to speak, Nieder thanked his longtime friends for the party, and for their hard work as a dedicated team.

“Everything I did was as part of a team,” Nieder said. “When you work together on a team, people don’t have to tell you that, you know it.”

For Nieder, the support of his colleagues was the biggest factor in his work. “It has been rewarding, fulfilling, exciting at times,” Nieder said. “Working in this hospital with all of you is all I ever wanted.”

Nieder spent many months caring for people across the world, and will travel to New Zealand to continue his life’s work of helping those in need.

Dr. Amar Luzic will take over the position following Nieder’s retirement from the hospital.