Author + information
- W. Douglas Weaver, MD, FACC, ACC President
This year, the American College of Cardiology celebrates its 60th anniversary, and as part of that celebration, we want to recognize individuals who have made major contributions to the College, to the profession, and perhaps most important, to patients. In other words, these are people who have made a real difference with their presence. Henry McIntosh, M.D., M.A.C.C., who passed away in December 2008, was such a person.
A distinguished physician and past President of the College, Henry's devotion to duty and service extended beyond the Hippocratic Oath and his patients. During World War II, he voluntarily left medical school at the University of Pennsylvania to serve in the U.S. Parachute Infantry Office of Strategic Services. As a result of his heroic drops behind enemy lines, he received the Silver Star, Croix de Guerre, and 2 Bronze Stars.
All who knew Henry admired him and refer to him as a remarkable individual. He was recognized as a great clinician, teacher, and leader. As a member of the faculty at the Duke School of Medicine, he pioneered and developed many of the diagnostic and therapeutic modalities we use today in cardiology. His reputation as a legendary teacher and trainer of cardiologists grew when he became chairman of the department of medicine at Baylor, and his influence extended well beyond the U.S.
According to those who worked with Henry, his leadership made you want to work as hard as you could for him, and his passion for a project was infectious. He had a knack for listening to all sides of an argument and then in a simple way proposing a win-win solution that was presented so subtly that all involved felt the solution had been their idea.
Yet, what most people acknowledge as Henry's most significant attribute and contribution is the humanity he brought to all he did. Benedict S. Maniscalco, M.D., F.A.C.C., CEO of Heartbeat International, offers this perspective:
“I have had the privilege to know many such physicians whose accomplishments and acclaim are equally astonishing. What made Henry D. McIntosh different was his belief in the dignity of all mankind. He would just as easily trim the toenails of a patient presented to him at Grand Rounds as have lunch with the titans of industry. He believed that ‘The service we give to our fellow man is the rent we pay to live' on this planet.”
Even in his final retirement, he continued to serve, as he volunteered as a receptionist at a clinic for the uninsured near his home in Florida.
Henry founded Heartbeat International, a 501(c)3 organization that relies on contributions to provide pacemakers to indigent populations of 24 countries in 41 cities around the globe. His vision of serving his fellow man by using pacemakers as “peacemakers” has saved or restored to function some 9,000 lives.
Throughout his career, Henry served on many committees, work groups, and task forces. Dan Doty, M.D., F.A.C.C., who worked with him on several projects, including Project GRACE (Guidelines for Resuscitation And Care at End-of-life), shares the following:
“Many people mention Henry's humility. If Henry had a fault (and I suspect he had fewer than anyone I've ever known), it would be that he sometimes agonized over past mistakes or errors in judgment he deemed to be mistakes. At almost every board meeting, he would remind us of his reasons for working on Project GRACE:
‘I'm working with Project GRACE because of the errors I made in teaching young physicians for so many years. When their patient died, I would always ask them to ask themselves if there wasn't one more thing they overlooked, one more thing they could have done to have kept the patient alive. I now know that was wrong and that we should know when to allow patients to die with peace and dignity. I'm trying to make up for that mistake by supporting Project GRACE'.”
All who were privileged to share in Henry's life are thankful for their good fortune in having known him. I, for one, am deeply moved by his story. He seems to have led a life that epitomized the essence of who we should be as physicians. At a time when we are coping with issues of health care reform, physician reimbursement, and conflicts of interest, Henry McIntosh's life serves as a beacon for the patient and a reminder of why we became physicians in the first place.
The McIntosh family has asked that memorials be made to Heartbeat International⁎ in his name. I encourage you also to keep the memory of his life and humanity as a physician in the forefront of your mind and to use his story to guide your professional and personal actions. Take time and reflect. Are you doing all you can to be the best possible role model for young physicians? What did you give back this past year? Are you engaged in the current deficiencies of our health care delivery system and working to make it a better one that provides greater value to your patients, improved handoffs, and fewer errors? When was the last time you sat down with your partners, spouse, or sons and daughters and thanked them for how they have enriched your life? We are indeed very fortunate and very privileged—thanks to Henry and every one of you who is like him.
↵⁎ Heartbeat International, 6800 North Dale Mabry Highway, #124, Tampa, Florida 33614-3998.
- American College of Cardiology Foundation