Tribute to Dr. R. James McKay
Dr. R. James (Jim) McKay, Professor Emeritus of Pediatrics and the founder and first chair of the Department of Pediatrics from 1950 to 1983, died on Friday, November 23rd at the age of 95 of natural causes.
Dr. McKay was a true pediatric “omnologist”- well versed in all areas of pediatrics (since he needed to be as the lone faculty member when he founded the department in 1950), who became particularly skilled in clinical genetics before the field became a subspecialty unto itself. He fostered the importance of community pediatricians and recognized them as key members of our faculty so that no “town-gown” friction would exist - something that has withstood the test of time in this department.
During his illustrious career, Jim wrote multiple peer-reviewed articles, served as the Editor ofNelson’s Textbook of Pediatrics, Associate Editor of the journal Pediatrics, Associate Editor and Editor-in-Chief of Pediatrics in Review and was elected President of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) as well as President of the Association of Medical School Pediatric Department Chairs, among many other honors and achievements. He has been the recipient of the Clinical Teacher of the Year Award from our College of Medicine, the Green Mountain Pediatrics Award from the Vermont AAP as well as the Abraham Jacobi Award - the highest award given nationally by the AAP. He was a true player-coach: leading while seeing patients in Burlington, Middlebury and Newport, always taking students and residents with him, teaching them and all of us the importance of his acronym “GRUSK”, reminding us always to be“gentle, respectful, understanding, sympathetic and kind”, this being but one of many lessons for life he will leave to us.
He will be dearly missed and yet his spirit remains in all of us who knew him, learned from him and, in turn, can hope to teach others as Jim has taught us so that his pediatric legacy carries on. While one might say our current McKay Green and Gold Professorship (held by his mentee and colleague, Dr. Buzz Land) and McKay Visiting Lectureship are ways we can always celebrate and honor Jim’s contributions to Pediatrics, our department and our children’s hospital (and, in turn, the thousands and thousands of children we have had the privilege to care for in this region and will continue to have that privilege in the years ahead), these are Jim’s real legacy and gift to every one of us, whether you knew him or not. We would not be the department and children’s hospital we are today without the influence of Jim McKay - and for that we are all eternally grateful!
Lewis R. First, MD
Chairman, Department of Pediatrics
Last modified December 04 2012 09:46 AM