It was a genuine honor to have known Dr. Ira Marks, who died on Tuesday. His obituary can be read here, and condolences may be left here.
The former head of pediatrics at CMH and past president of the Medical Staff there, Dr. Marks delivered countless babies, and tended the health of many children for decades; kids he took care of as infants now have infants or even grandchildren of their own. My acquaintance with Dr. Marks came from working closely with him on a major issue in our region last decade—the threat that was posed by St. Lawrence Cement to the health of the community, a community he served for decades in many capacities.
Both in public presentations (among others, at A.M.E. Zion Church in Hudson; at 401 State Street with the Board of Supervisors; or at the Claverack home of Irma Brownfield and Frederik Rostok), Dr. Marks' factual expertise, his calm demeanor, and his extensive ties to all parts of our community were a tremendous help to the "Stop the Plant" cause.
Attached here is a copy of a detailed and persuasive letter which Dr. Marks sent in 2001 to Administrative Law Judge Helene Goldberger, based upon his own extensive research. He also participated in helping to select and guide health risk assessment experts who prepared testimony on behalf of plant opponents.
His role in organizing the doctors of Columbia Memorial Hospital to conduct an independent study of the issue—in the end, they came out against the proposed coal-fired plant—was likewise a major turning point in that long struggle. The credibility he'd quietly built up both among his fellow doctors and among the public was a force to reckon with.
(It was Dr. Marks who, in the company of Dr. Michael Brown and others, ventured out to a meeting to quiz two SLC medical consultants affiliated with Harvard Medical School, where he himself was educated. Under his polite but firm questioning, one of the company doctors admitted at last, that "Dr. Koutrakis, when asked at the end of the meeting whether he would choose to live in the area of the proposed plant, responded, 'No.'" This admission was quickly publicized, and gave our struggle new momentum.)
Conversation with Dr. Marks always proved illuminating. I learned from him, among many other things, the concept in medical research and analysis of "a series of one"—meaning that the conclusions one can draw from anecdotal evidence observed only in an individual case begin and end with that case. (He would cite this, for example, if someone said that their grandfather smoked, and lived to be 100, that tells you nothing about smoking, except that that individual was fortunate to resist its ill effects.)
He was a cherished member of this community, and will be both fondly remembered and truly missed. My appreciation, sincere condolences and best wishes go out to his wife Susannah and Dr. Mark’s extended family.