American Surgical Association Transactions

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1932 - 2014

JOHN H. SIEGEL, M.D., 1932 - 2014

John H. Siegel began his training as a scientist at Cornell University where he doubled majored in Philosophy and Zoology, receiving a0 Bachelor of Arts in 1953 with honors. His MD was from the Johns Hopkins University in 1957 and he was awarded the Strong Dennison Research Fellowship in Pharmacology excellence during his senior year. After graduating, he served an internship at Grace-New Haven Community Hospital at Yale University, a one year appointment in the pre-match days of the 1950s. He then turned to research as a Cardiovascular Research Fellow at Yale University (1958-1959) followed by full time service in the United States Public Health Service (1959-1961) where he served at the National Institutes of Health as an officer in the National Heart and Lung Institute (sic, before Blood was added to the remit). Having completed his 2 year commitment, he matriculated to the University of Michigan in 1961 for his surgical residency and was awarded a Traineeship in Academic Surgery in the United State Public Health Service (1962-1965). His research experience was well recognized so that during his residency, he also served as the Director of the Cardiovascular Physiology Laboratory in the Department of Surgery at Michigan during his residency, concluding in 1965.

John next headed back East to become an Instructor (1965-1967), Assistant Professor (1967-1970), and Associate Professor (1970-1972) at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. He was promoted to both Professor of Surgery and Research Professor of Biophysical Sciences when he next moved to the State University of New York at Buffalo where he served for a decade as Chief of the Department of Surgery at the Buffalo General Hospital (1972-1982). Returning to Maryland, John became a Professor of Surgery at the University of Maryland (1982-1991) and at his alma mater the Johns Hopkins University (1984-1991).

It was in the 1980s that he turned his attention to trauma under Dr. R. Adams Crowley. John served as the Clinical Director (1982-1988) and Deputy Director (1982-1991) of the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems (MIEMSS). He contributed greatly to the arena of Trauma Systems Research with the National Study Center of Trauma and EMS, investigating motor vehicle crashes and their associated injuries. He established the Crash Injury and Engineering Network (CIREN) where he was Director, and that resulted in more than 400 crash case-studies combining the detailed multi-disciplinary approach of CIREN with the epidemiology of motor-vehicle related injury. These studies provided a clear picture of the causes, costs, and outcomes of these injuries which subsequently were utilized by the automobile industry to engineer automobile safety systems quotidian today.

John’s influence extended to the space program where he served in multiple consultative roles, including the NASA Space Station Health Maintenance Consultation Committee, the NASA Aerospace Medical Advisory Committee, and as a delegate to the NASA US-USSR “Medical Spacebridge,” an early system that used satellite communications presaging telemedicine.

In the final chapter of his professional life, he moved North to the then University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey (now the Rutgers New Jersey Medical School) in 1991 where he became Director of the New Jersey Trauma Center and the Wesley J. Howe Professor of Trauma Surgery. He also served as Department Chair & Professor of Anatomy, Cell Biology and Injury Sciences. John continued his work in CIREN and dedication to both clinical and research duties. He was well known to show up at Morning Report with multi-point, color-coded “radar diagrams” of patients in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit profiling their cardiovascular, respiratory, renal, and nutritional parameters illustrating patients likely to be descending into or emerging from sepsis or multi-organ failure days before such outcomes manifested themselves clinically (affectionately known as “Siegel-grams”).

John’s contributions were long and broad in the areas of physiology, trauma surgery and injury prevention comprising 3 patents, 62 book chapter and 226 peer-reviewed articles spanning 40 years (1955-2005). Notable also are the countless medical students, residents, fellows and colleagues he generously mentored throughout his career.

Taking stock of the corpus of one’s contributions is however all the more important when measured by the impact one has had upon others. Dr. Siegel was a gentleman, a dedicated scientist, and a great mentor. His true impact on this world may never be fully appreciated, but it is clear that he advanced human knowledge of trauma and shock. His array of research extended from bench and animal research into shock physiology, to reconstruction of car crashes to improve automotive safety, to use of advanced biostatistics. He inspired many to pursue an academic career in Trauma and Critical Care, and be the best surgeons, investigators, and persons that they could be. His trainees are in multiple countries, and have doubtless changed the course of many and saved thousands of human lives.

Several colleagues offered these remembrances: always helpful in the critical thinking of surgical decision making; understanding human physiology and its role in the response to injury and infection; passionate about surgical research and the inquisitive and curious mind; and dedicated to the care of the critically ill and injured patient.

In our eternal quest to care for our patients, John authored an important chapter and to paraphrase, Exodus 33:14: “his presence will forever go with us and continue to give knowledge.”