On August 25, the UTHealth community had to say goodbye to one of its heroes and icons, Dr. James “Red” Duke, Professor of Surgery and the John B. Holmes Professor of Clinical Sciences at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth), who passed away at 86 of natural causes, with his family at his bedside that morning.
Dr. Duke was a dedicated physician known for his extraordinary patient care and efforts to train medical students and surgeons, as well as his efforts to educate the public about health issues. The following are just highlights of the accomplishments that Dr. Duke achieved over a forty year career of giving back to the community:
- As one of the first faculty members at UTHealth, Dr. Duke founded the trauma service at Memorial Hermann Hospital
- Established Life Flight®, Texas’s first lifesaving air ambulance service, and was its medical director for almost four decades
- Duke was a founding member of the American Trauma Society and played a significant role in developing Texas’s EMS and trauma system
- He established the nationally syndicated television news program, Texas Health Reports, and helped to educate millions of viewers on health topics such as kidney stones, injury prevention, and proper nutrition
- Awarded lifetime achievements awards from both the Houston Technology Center and the Governor’s EMS & Trauma Advisory Council
- Co-founded the Texas Medical Center’s Hiring Red, White & You! Initiative that helps to find employment opportunities for military veterans who wanted to transition into the civilian workforce.
UTHealth, Memorial Hermann Hospital released the following statements from a few of Dr. Duke’s friends and colleagues:
“Dr. Duke was a true pioneer — a talented and tireless surgeon, a dedicated and inspiring educator, and a friend and mentor to everyone he met. He never sought to be a leader, but became one naturally through his brilliance, compassion, patience and selflessness,” said Giuseppe N. Colasurdo, M.D., president of UTHealth and dean of UTHealth Medical School. “He was a constant presence at our university and we will miss his guidance, his wit and, most importantly, his example. From all of us at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston – thank you Dr. Red Duke.”
“Dr. Duke was one of our country’s great doctors. He was a friend, a colleague, and a role model and mentor to a generation of doctors who benefited immensely from his guidance. I, along with everyone at Memorial Hermann, will forever miss Dr. Duke. As we collectively grieve, we also want to extend our sincere gratitude for his relentless and unprecedented dedication and impact on medicine, education and the medical community,” said Dan Wolterman, president and CEO, Memorial Hermann Health System.
Richard Andrassy, M.D., professor and chairman of the Department of Surgery at UTHealth Medical School, said, “Dr. Duke was a friend, mentor and larger-than-life figure for thousands of us who were fortunate to be his students, residents or colleagues. He has passed down the wisdom that ‘the most important part of being a doctor is being a doctor.’ His hands-on care – from applying brown sugar to wounds to sitting at the bedside and holding the hand of his patients – would be a lost art if not for Dr. Duke.”
“As a physician, Dr. Duke is remembered for his tireless and steadfast dedication to his patients, as well as his exceptional bedside manner. He was compassionate, ethical, brilliant and humble. A colleague and a friend to all of us, he leaves behind a legacy of selfless service to his beloved community. He was a great physician, but even more so, an extraordinary man,” said Craig Cordola, regional president at Memorial Hermann.
Not only did Dr. Duke focus on the importance of teaching medical students to be the best kind of physician, he was also dedicated to early childhood education and in recognition of his commitment to education, math, science and innovation the Alvin Independent School District opened the Dr. James “Red” Duke Elementary in 2014.
Dr. Duke was a shining example of what all human beings should aspire to become. He embodied the best of what we are all capable of, and he will be truly missed.
From the family of Dr. James Henry “Red” Duke, Jr.:
“It is with great sorrow that we announce the passing of Dr. James Henry “Red” Duke, Jr.
To countless colleagues, friends and patients, he was a skilled physician, innovative healthcare provider, exceptional communicator and dedicated conservationist.
We, however, mourn him as a caring father, grandfather and devoted brother who will be deeply missed by his family.”
In lieu of customary remembrances, the family requests that memorial contributions be directed to the James H. “Red” Duke, Jr. MD Endowed Scholarship Fund, UTHealth Office of Development, P.O. Box 1321, Houston, TX 77251-1321 or to the Memorial Hermann Life Flight Fund c/o Memorial Hermann Foundation, 929 Gessner, Suite 2650, Houston, TX 77024