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Dr. Sig Pueschel

We are sad to announce that Dr. Siegfried M. Pueschel, the pioneering developmental pediatrician and friend to many in our community, passed away last night. He was battling prostate cancer. 


In the 1970s, while at Children's Hospital Boston, Dr. Pueschel became the Director of the first comprehensive Down syndrome Program in the country, where he worked alongside another giant, the late Dr. Allen Crocker. He also served as a lecturer on pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. In 1975, Dr. Pueschel went on to direct the Child Development Center at Rhode Island Hospital in Providence. In all, he authored or co-authored 15 books and 250 scientific articles.


Dr. Pueschel and a friend at the 2013 NDSC Conference in Denver
Dr. Pueschel's career was shaped in large part by one particular personal event. In 1965, his wife gave birth to a son, Christian, who had Down syndrome (Dr. Pueschel made the diagnosis himself). 
"After the initial traumatic experience, our sadness and concerns were soon transformed into joy and true happiness," Dr. Pueschel said in speech during the 1999 NDSC Annual Awards Banquet in Pittsburgh. "His smiles and his pleasant personality conquered our hearts, and thus we started to celebrate Chris' life."  (Read more from that speech below). 
In the late 1960s, having completed his medical residency at Montreal Children's Hospital in Quebec, Dr. Pueschel was asked to come to the U.S. to work on disability policy at the Harvard School of Government. When his application was rejected because of his son's disability, Dr. Pueschel recruited the support of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy. 


Filmmaker Melanie Perkins McLaughlin interviewed Dr. Pueschel about the incident for an upcoming documentary. Not only did Dr. Pueschel and Sen. Kennedy fight to override that particular injustice, McLaughlin said, but when he arrived in the U.S. "one of the first things Sig did was to work with Ted Kennedy to change the law and allow people with disabilities to emigrate to America."  


On August 9, 1998, at the age of 33, Chris died. He had lived "a fulfilled and prolific life," Dr. Pueschel said. A few hours after Chris' passing, in what he called "the most arduous and painful task in my life," Dr. Pueschel stood in front of an audience at the NDSC's Annual Convention to present a plenary session.  


Dr. Pueschel climbing the Alps in 2002

Dr. Pueschel was renowned for his work ethic and his deep connection with people with disabilities and their families. He was also an avid adventurer. Ken Bell, a TV sports director in Rhode Island traveled with Dr. Pueschel to Mexico on a mission trip.


"He set up a clinic and he saw hundreds of people," Bell told the East Greenwich Patch. "He wouldn't eat. He didn't want to take a break. He loves people and he has such a connection with people with Down syndrome."


As the Down syndrome movement looks to the future, we hope you will join us in remembering Dr. Pueschel, a founding father who paved the way for where we are today. He will be missed!


Funeral services are scheduled for Saturday September 7 at 11:00 am at Christ Church in East Greenwich, R.I.


Please check our Facebook page for the latest updates and to continue the conversation about Dr. Pueschel's life and legacy. We encourage you to post photos and memories to our Wall. 

Words of Wisdom 

"I learned from Chris and from other individuals with Down syndrome that there is a goodness, kindheartedness, humanity, and magic in our children that must be protected and never be betrayed.


My friends, we must preserve this humanity and these human values in a world whose forces and pressures tell us to always believe in technological solutions. I believe that there is a need to return to the fundamentals of existence, the pursuit of truth, the reverence of life, and the unselfish concern for human dignity. 


Reverence of life and an appreciation of the significance of each individual human being, including our children with Down syndrome, must be the cornerstone of any enduring society."


- Dr. Pueschel in his speech to the 1999 NDSC Annual Awards Banquet in Pittsburgh.  Read the speech in its entirety here. 

In Honor of Dr. Pueschel
Dr. Pueschel was recently honored by the Down syndrome community in Rhode Island
Video by Elizabeth McNamara, East Greenwich Patch 

Dr. Pueschel left a lasting impression not only with his patients, but also with his colleagues. Here's what some in the MDSC community had to say about his work and his legacy:  



I've interviewed dozens of people and can say with conviction that Sig was one of the most compassionate human beings I've ever met. He talked of his son with such love it felt like Christian was in the room with us. He was a pioneer in the Down syndrome community. I'll miss him and will imagine him dancing among the stars with Christian and beloved wife. 

-Melanie Perkins McLaughlin, Parents First Call Volunteer & Filmmaker 


skotkoI already miss him as a colleague and friend. His legacy will continue to beat vibrantly in all people with Down syndrome who have more opportunities today because of Sig's dedication, wisdom, and passion. He saw solutions when our world saw problems; he saw likeness when communities saw difference; he willed hope when others predicted defeat. He was and always will be a true champion for all people with Down syndrome.

-Brian Skotko, Co-Director of MGH Down Syndrome Program



MaureenDr. Pueschel was one of the first people to reach out to the MDSC when Dr. Allen Crocker passed away almost two years ago. It's hard to lose these two great leaders in such a short time. They both provided families with the hope, inspiration, and leadership that has fueled the Down syndrome movement for many decades. Their good work made an extraordinary impact in the lives of all people with Down syndrome. It's a sad day for the Down syndrome community. We offer our sincere condolences to Sig Pueschel' s family during this time of loss.

-Maureen Gallagher, MDSC Executive Director


Our Mission
The MDSC strives to ensure people with Down syndrome in Massachusetts are valued, included, and given opportunities to pursue fulfilling lives by providing information, networking opportunities, and advocacy for people with Down syndrome, their families, educators, health care professionals, and the community-at-large.
Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress 
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Burlington, MA 01803