In memoria: Charles J. McCabe, MD, 1948-2008

In memoria

Charles J. McCabe, MD, 1948-2008

Charles J. McCabe, MD, a member of The American Journal of Emergency Medicine editorial board since its inception in 1983, died of complications from Metastatic melanoma on July 7 in Boston. He was 60 years old.

Charlie McCabe received his bachelor’s degree from Notre Dame University in 1970 and his medical degree from New Jersey College of Medicine and Dentistry in 1974. He began surgical training that same year at The Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), rising to be chief resident in general surgery in 1980. Charlie was sui generis as a person and different breed of surgeon as well, attentive to the needs of not only trauma patients but also of the entire emergency department. He was instrumental for the next two decades at transforming what had been a traditional, balkanized emergency “ward” into one of the finest integrated units and residency programs in the country. Although he would have been loathe to describing himself as a diplomat or pioneer in the traditional sense, his career bridged the old and new approaches to delivering emergency care, and his professional trajectory exemplified that transformation.

Although a diagnosis of Multiple sclerosis made toward the end of his training precluded an operative career, he enthusiastically embraced a new path in emergency medi- cine, where he quickly became a beloved educator and mentor for residents of all specialties and medical students who rotated through the MGH emergency department. He rose to become associate chief of emergency services at MGH as well as becoming a professor at Harvard Medical School. Charlie was particularly devoted to his students and received many teaching honors, including the Harvard Faculty Teaching Award in 1987, 1994, and 1997 and an unprecedented Harvard Medical School Special Faculty Prize for Sustained Excellence in Teaching in 2006.

Among his other appointments, he served from 1983 to 1992 as the state medical director for the Office of

Emergency Medical Services, a division of the Massachu- setts Department of Public Health. He also was a member of numerous professional societies and served on the editorial board of Emergency Care Quarterly as well as The American Journal of Emergency Medicine. Charlie was the American Journal of Emergency Medicine‘s lead reviewer for trauma care for more than 2 decades, and his reviews were always meticulous, punctual, professional, constructive, and sup- portive–a perfect reflection of his genuine enthusiasm, collegiality, and empathy. In addition, he inaugurated our tradition of publishing annotated bibliographies, compiling an exhaustive and widely cited annual review of the trauma literature from his unique perspective as a trained surgeon and practicing emergency physician.

TV shows aside, Charlie was the original physician on crutches taking care of trauma patients. Confined to a wheelchair in more recent years, he courageously battled the successive complications of multiple sclerosis, lymphoma, bone marrow transplants, and finally melanoma. Charlie remained irrepressible, productive, and optimistic, complet- ing reviews from his hospital bed and reassuring people, through his deeds as well as words, that no challenge was insurmountable. He was, to the end, absolutely and indefatigably cheerful and committed to helping those who train or seek care in the emergency department.

Charlie McCabe was a man who knew who he was and physician who knew why he was here on earth. Those who are called to the practice emergency medicine–and it surely is a calling–could do a lot worse than to reflect upon his dedication, tenacity, and GRACE for inspiration the next shift they face a chaotic emergency department full of desperately ill patients in need of our ministration.

J. Douglas White MD

E-mail address: [email protected]

0735-6757/$ – see front matter doi:10.1016/j.ajem.2008.07.030

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