American Surgical Association Transactions

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1926 - 2016

RICHARD H. EGDAHL, M.D., PH.D., 1926 - 2016

Richard Egdahl died from complications of Parkinsons Disease in April, 2016 at the age of 89.

Dr. Egdahl was born and raised in Wisconsin as the only child of Harry Egdahl, a dentist, and Cassandra Ball Egdahl, a schoolteacher. An accomplished student, he was recognized by radio station WGN in Chicago as "Honor Student of the Week" for his feat of achieving straight "A"s throughout 4 years at Eau Claire Senior High School, while also playing on the tennis team and taking top place among 25 high schools in both the cello and the piano solo contests. Upon completing high school, he enlisted in the Navy V-12 program during World War II and attended Dartmouth College. He went on to Harvard Medical School and graduated in 1950. From 1951 to 1953, he served in the US Navy, first as chief medical officer aboard the USS Laertes during the Korean War, and then as a staff member at the Naval Medical Research Institute in Bethesda, MD.

He completed his surgical training and PhD in physiology at the University of Minnesota, and accepted his first faculty position at Medical College of Virginia as the director of the surgical research laboratory. He was an insightful researcher, and his observations regarding the hormonal responses to injury won him the CIBA Award from the Endocrine Society in 1962, the first surgeon to be so recognized. He became the Utley Professor of Surgery at Boston University and surgeon-in-chief at University Hospital in 1964.

In 1973, he accepted broader responsibility at BU for all health-related administration, as the Director of University Hospital, and Academic Vice President for Health Affairs. In this second role, he oversaw the Schools of Medicine, Dental Medicine, Social Work, Public Health and Sargent College (Health and Rehabilitation Sciences). He simultaneously founded the University’s Health Policy Institute, a think tank to include medical, government and business leaders in forming strategies for new quality and management approaches in healthcare. He remained in these positions for 24 years. During this time, he founded the first company to support electronic processing of insurance claims with incorporation of clinical decision-making logic to try to improve healthcare quality and cost. The company was subsequently acquired and is now part of McKesson Corporation.

After completing the merger of University Hospital and Boston City Hospital to form Boston Medical Center in 1996, Dr. Egdahl became the inaugural Alexander Graham Bell Professor of Health Care Entrepreneurship in 1997. He continued to work in healthcare policy until his retirement due to health limitations in 2010. He was a member of the Institute of Medicine, the American Society for Clinical Investigation, and a founding member of the American Association of Endocrine Surgeons. As a member of the President's Advisory Council on Management Improvement he frequently testified on Capitol Hill. He served on the editorial boards of several journals, including more than a decade with the New England Journal of Medicine.

Dr. Egdahl is survived by his wife, Cynthia Taft, four children and four grandchildren.