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Gordon F. Murray, M.D., 1939-2018

Gordon F. Murray, M.D. died in Wilmington, North Carolina on May 21, 2018 at the age of 79. He was born on January 8, 1939 in Muskegon, Michigan. His parents were both high school teachers. Dr. Murray's older brother, Douglas (Doug), was unsure of a career pathway by the time he was a senior in high school. He discussed this with Gordon, at that time in 7th grade, and despite having no prior physicians in the family, Gordon responded emphatically, "I'm going to be a surgeon". The origin of this decision remains unknown, but it clearly influenced Doug, who entered the University of Michigan's 3-year pre-professional program saving the family a year of tuition before medical school. Gordon followed suite. Doug played quarterback for the Michigan Wolverines—a tremendous source of pride for Gordon—and the brothers remained loyal Michigan football fans throughout their lives. After completing medical school at the University of Michigan and a surgical oncology fellowship at Sloan Kettering Memorial Hospital in New York, Doug became a highly accomplished surgical oncologist at Emory in Atlanta where he remained all of his professional life.

In 1959, Dr. Murray entered medical school at the University of Michigan, and in his senior year spent a 6-month research fellowship at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in the laboratory of Dr. David Sabiston and Vivian Thomas, laboratory assistant to Dr. Alfred Blalock. He was elected into the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society. During his medical school years, Gordon met his future wife, Sharon Lynn Marsden of Grand Rapids, Michigan; Sharon was an English major at the University of Michigan. They were married on June 15, 1963, shortly after Gordon's graduation from medical school. From Ann Arbor, the Murray's moved to Baltimore, where Dr. Murray began his surgical training at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. Dr. Blalock, the Surgery Department Chair, died the following year in 1964, when Dr. George Zuidema became the new Chief of Surgery. Dr. Murray completed his fourth year of surgical residency at the Massachusetts General Hospital (1966-67) and then returned to Johns Hopkins for his last 3 years of training (1967-70). As the Vietnam War was coming to an end, Dr. Murray served as a Thoracic Staff-Surgeon at the U.S. Naval Hospital in Great Lakes, Illinois from 1970-72.

In 1972, Dr. Benson Wilcox, Chief of the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill, recruited Dr. Murray to his faculty as an Assistant Professor of Surgery. He remained at UNC for the next 14 years, being promoted to Associate Professor in 1975, Professor in 1980, and Associate Chief of the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery in 1981. Dr. Murray's commitment to resident education was influenced by Dr. Wilcox, who was his friend and mentor, and by his parents, who were teachers. In 1985, Gordon was recruited to the University of West Virginia (UVW) in Morgantown as Professor of Surgery and Chief of the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery. Over the course of the next 18 years, he served as the Chief of the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery (1985-2003) and Chairman of the Department of Surgery (1987-1998). Throughout his career, Dr. Murray was an advocate of both Thoracic and General Surgery residents. He served on numerous administrative and leadership committees at both UNC and UVW and played a major role in the strategic direction of the UVW Health Sciences Center. He was known for his calm demeanor, integrity and ability to gain consensus. Gordon Murray was a pillar of the thoracic surgical community, which he served so well. Among his many contributions, he was President of the Halsted Society (1998), the Southern Thoracic Surgical Association (1992), The Thoracic Surgery Directors Association (1993), and the Society of Thoracic Surgeons (2009). He served on the American Board of Thoracic Surgery, of which he was Chair of the Examination Committee (1994-98) and on the Residency Review Committees for both Thoracic Surgery (1991-95) and Vascular Surgery 1993-95). His publications spanned the field of cardiothoracic surgery.

Despite his extraordinarily busy professional life, Dr. Murray's priority was always his family. The Murrays had 3 children-a daughter (Bren) born in 1965, and 2 sons (Bill and Bruce) born in 1967 and 1971, respectively. While in Chapel Hill, he and the two boys fished, camped and took bike trips on Ocracoke Island in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. He was a marathon runner and a tennis player. He guided his daughter, Bren, into a career in pediatric intensive care nursing. He became Professor Emeritus in 2004 and retired from UVW in 2006 moving to Southport, NC with his wife, Sharon.

Gordon Murray's family had Scottish roots on his father's side, and Gordon took great pride in the heritage of the Murray clan. At his memorial service at the small St. James Chapel in Southport, NC, he received military honors in recognition of his service in the U.S. Navy, and an American flag was presented to Sharon. Scottish bagpipers played Amazing Grace. It was not difficult to imagine Gordon comforting those in attendance with one of his favorite Scottish blessings: "May all the hills lie low before you." Dr. Gordon Murray loved surgery, particularly thoracic surgery, and was a truly good human being to whom all in our specialty owe a great debt of gratitude and respect.

Abridged from Orringer, M.B. Gordon F. Murray, M.D., January 8, 1939 to May 21, 2018. Ann Thorac Surg 2018; 106:1267-70.