Cardiology lost a giant on October 1, 2011, with the death of Dr. J. Willis Hurst in Atlanta, Georgia. Dr. Hurst died at Emory University Hospital from complications of a stroke. He was 91 years old.
Willis will best be remembered as the long-term chairman of the Department of Medicine of the Emory University School of Medicine (30 years); as the editor or coeditor with Drs. Bruce Logue, Robert Schlant, and Nanette Wenger of The Heart; and as personal physician to President Lyndon Johnson.
In addition to his wife, Nelie (61 years of happy marriage), and 3 sons, John, Jr., Stephen, and Philip, Dr. Hurst's personal passions were teaching, writing, and patient care. Among his teaching awards, he received the Master Teacher Award twice from the American College of Cardiology, the Gifted Teacher Award from the American College of Physicians, and the Pappageorge Award for Excellence in Teaching at Emory. Dr. Hurst created 68 medical books and published 461 scientific articles. Hurst's The Heart continues to be the leading textbook in the field of cardiology. One day at the White House to care for President Johnson and the next caring for the poorest patients at Grady Memorial Hospital, Willis Hurst always provided excellent patient care.
Fortunately, he was recognized for his many contributions to the medical profession during his lifetime. Dr. Hurst served as president of the American Heart Association in 1971 and 1972 and as president of the American Society of Professors of Medicine 1985 and 1986. After becoming a member of the Sub-Specialty Board of Cardiovascular Diseases in 1965, he served as chairman of the board from 1967 to 1970. He was a Founder and President of the Paul Dudley White Society in 1974 and was asked to give the memorial address when Dr. White died.
I had the privilege of working with Willis Hurst for 49 years and enjoyed his support and advice as chief of cardiothoracic surgery, as director of the Emory Clinic (of which Dr. Hurst was a founding member), and as vice president for health affairs and director of the Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center.
J. Willis Hurst was a remarkable and unique individual and physician. He should be the ideal role model for all young people who enter the medical profession.
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