Dr. Paul F. Twist Jr., who founded the neonatal intensive care unit at Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola and was its clinical director for three decades, died Feb. 3 at his Smithtown home of prostate cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. He was 69.
“He was a very good doctor and he was a great people person,” said Dr. Warren Rosenfeld, Winthrop’s chairman of pediatrics who worked with Twist for several decades. “He really invested in every patient and every patient’s family. He would talk to a family, and no matter how dire the circumstances, they always felt better after talking to Paul.”
Born in 1946, Twist grew up in Eden, New York, near Buffalo. In 1969, he received his bachelor’s of science degree in pharmacy from St. John’s University, where he met fellow pharmacy classmate, Angela, whom he married a year later.
He graduated in 1973 from the College of Osteopathic Medicine and Surgery in Des Moines and finished his residency in pediatrics at Good Samaritan Hospital in Cincinnati in 1976. He completed a fellowship in neonatology at Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, Illinois, the following year.
His wife said he was recruited by the then Nassau Hospital in Mineola, where he soon opened its first neonatal intensive care unit. He remained at the hospital, renamed Winthrop in 1985, until his retirement in 2009.
Family members describe how many times over the years grateful parents would embrace and thank him for saving their child.
One time, his wife said, he bumped into a car on the Southern State Parkway. The driver, she said, emerged from the car, ready to let him have it. When she realized who he was, she cried, “Dr. Twist? You saved my baby’s life!”
Another time, she said, Twist was at his son’s football game and was hollering at the referee. “The ref stopped the game, walked all the way up steps of the bleachers and said, ‘Are you Dr. Twist? You saved my baby’s life,’ ” she said.
His brother, Joseph of Hunt Valley, Maryland, seven years younger, said he witnessed people coming up to his brother in the grocery store “saying ‘You saved my son’ or ‘You saved my daughter.’ ”
“Above all, he was a healer,” his brother said. “He was my best friend and a remarkable guy.”
In addition to his wife and brother, Twist is survived by sons Patrick of Brooklyn, Michael of West Hartford, Connecticut, and Brendan, also of Brooklyn; sister Maureen Zagami of West Hartford; and four grandchildren.
A wake is to be held from 5 to 9 p.m. Friday at Bryant Funeral Home, 411 Old Town Rd. in East Setauket. A funeral service is to be held at 9:30 a.m. Saturday at St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church, 280 E. Main St. in Smithtown. Burial will take place this summer at Chautauqua Cemetery in upstate Chautauqua.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that a donation be made to the charity of one’s choice.