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September 11, 2008

Obituary: Robert M. Rogers

Robert M. Rogers, professor of medicine and former chief of the Division of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care Medicine (PACCM) in the Department of Medicine, died Sept. 4, 2008, of complications from prostate cancer. He was 75.

Michael Donahoe, associate chief of clinical programs at PACCM, said, “Bob was one of the true ‘characters’ in academic medicine. He had a wonderful sense of humor and truly loved interacting with the members of his division, from physicians to staff. But his commitment to academic medicine was also matched by his commitment to family, both his own and his ‘division’ family.”

Rogers was a devoted research-er and teacher, Donahoe added. “He did not lecture or actually tell you the answers. He preferred to lead you in the right direction with the expectation you would do the work, and then formulate your own theories/opinions based upon your review of the literature or research data. His goal was more to make you think,” Donahoe said.

An Upper Darby, Pa., native, Rogers graduated cum laude in 1956 from La Salle College in Philadelphia. He earned his medical degree in 1960 at Penn, followed by a residency in internal medicine at the University Hospitals of Cleveland (1961-63) and fellowships in pulmonary disease at Case Western Reserve (1963-64) and the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (1964-65).

In 1965 Rogers was named assistant instructor in medicine, and was promoted to medical associate in 1966 and assistant professor of medicine in 1968 at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.

In 1972, he was appointed as professor of medicine, associate professor of physiology and chief of the Pulmonary/Critical Care Medicine Division at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.

He came to Pitt as professor of medicine and professor of anesthesiology in 1980. At that time, he also was named chief of the Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine Division, a joint program of the medical school’s Department of Medicine and the then-Presbyterian-University Hospital (PUH), a position he held until 1996. He also served as director and founder of PUH’s Clinical Pulmonary Physiology Laboratory, which he headed until 1992.

From 1990 to 1997, he served as director of the University of Pittsburgh Comprehensive Lung Center.

“Bob liked to build programs,” colleague Donahoe noted. “Twice in his career — in Oklahoma and Pittsburgh — he accepted the leadership position in programs not traditionally considered at the time to be strong academic programs. He built both programs into nationally recognized clinical and research programs. He started a respiratory intensive care unit — now called an intensive care unit — at the University of Pennsylvania before anyone had actually considered the idea. Essentially, he liked to act on his ideas, grow programs and lead people. He was somewhat of a maverick in his goal of exploring new pathways.”

At Pitt, Rogers was well known for training more than 90 local specialists in treating lung diseases. He became known nationally for developing the leading treatment for a rare disease called pulmonary alveolar proteinosis, in which abnormal material accumulates in the lungs. Rogers’s treatment, called lavage, involved flooding lungs with saline to wash out the material.

In addition to an outstanding professional and academic career, Rogers was an accomplished painter, a pastime he embraced in his 50s. He developed his talent by taking classes at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts and the Carnegie Museum of Art. Later he studied at the Florence Academy of Art in Italy.

He was a member of the American Association of Physician Artists, which awarded him numerous accolades at their juried shows. Rogers won painting awards from the association in 1996, 1997, 1998 and 2002.

He worked in a variety of media, including charcoal, watercolor, acrylic and, more recently, oil, as well as with a variety of subjects, including landscapes, still-lifes, portraits and abstract paintings. In 2005, Watercolors Gallery of Pittsburgh sponsored a one-artist show of his work.

Rogers held memberships in a number of professional and scientific societies, including the American Federation for Clinical Research, the Central Society for Clinical Research, the Southern Society for Clinical Research, the American Physiological Society, the Society of Critical Care Medicine, the American Thoracic Society, the American Heart Association, the Pennsylvania Thoracic Society (serving as president, 1985-88), the American Lung Association of Western Pennsylvania, the American Lung Association of Pennsylvania, the American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition, the Royal Society of Medicine and the European Respiratory Society.

He was a fellow of the American College of Physicians, the American College of Chest Physicians (serving as governor, 1982-85 and 1995-97) and the College of Physicians of Philadelphia.

Rogers held specialty certification in internal medicine, pulmonary disease and critical care medicine.

He was named one the best doctors in America by Town & Country magazine 11 times.

Rogers also served on several departmental committees in the Pitt School of Medicine.

The annual Robert M. Rogers Lectureship was established at PACCM in 2001 to honor his career. The lecture highlights his long-standing commitment to physician education and fellowship training.

Rogers is survived by his wife, Sandra; daughter Janet Marie Gidley; sons Rob, Brad and David; sister Clara Schneberger; brothers John, James and Joseph, and grandsons Robert and Benjamin Gidley.

A memorial service will be held at 4 p.m. Oct. 15 in Heinz Chapel.

The family requests that, in lieu of flowers, contributions be made to the Bob and Sandy Rogers Endowed Fund in Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care Medicine, Division of PACCM, 3459 Fifth Ave., Pittsburgh 15213.

The fund, which supports the Rogers Lectureship, was established with a substantial contribution by the Rogers family, Donahoe said. He added that Rogers had hoped the fund would help sustain his commitment to fellowship training and career development.

—Peter Hart

Filed under: Feature,Volume 41 Issue 2

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