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Jerold F. Lucey ‘48 (1926-2017) R.I.P.

Jerold F. Lucey.jpgThe New York Times has noted the passing of Jerold Lucey ‘48, another alumnus who had a significant impact on the world — in his case, the medical treatment of premature babies. From the Times obituary:

Dr. Lucey spearheaded the introduction of new treatments for fragile newborns. He also energized the field of pediatrics by encouraging national and international collaborations and emphasizing that procedures had to be backed by documented evidence of their effectiveness.

In the 1960s, he conducted a randomized trial of light therapy to treat jaundice in premature babies, leading to the wide adoption of the technique. A light therapy chamber he constructed was displayed at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington.

Dr. Lucey was also influential in the introduction of other important neonatal therapies, including using surfactant, which coats the air sacs, to help the struggling lungs of premature babies; cooling the brains of babies to prevent damage from asphyxiation; and monitoring babies’ oxygen levels through the skin, rather than through blood drawn repeatedly from arteries.

Dr. Lucey was also editor in chief of the journal Pediatrics for 35 years. He greatly expanded its circulation, creating editions in Brazil, India, China and elsewhere, and began posting articles online early in the digital age, said Dr. Lewis R. First, the current editor in chief.

Dr. Lucey was the recipient of numerous medical awards and honors and was inducted into the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.

In 1980 he created an annual conference, “Hot Topics in Neonatology,” which highlighted controversial issues, emphasized rigorous research and encouraged vigorous debate.

“He had this amazing ability to spot the important next thing,” said Dr. Jeffrey D. Horbar, chief executive and scientific officer of the Vermont Oxford Network, another innovation of Dr. Lucey’s.

The network was founded in 1988 after Dr. Lucey had returned from a sabbatical in England inspired to start a system under which hospitals in different locations could collaborate on randomized trials, share data and learn to apply research results to their patients.

Dr. Horbar said the Vermont Oxford Network now includes health professionals at more than 1,200 neonatal units around the world.

Dr. First said, “I don’t think there’s a pediatrician who doesn’t realize that some aspect of their career is because of a contribution that Jerry Lucey made.”

The Spring 2003 edition of Dartmouth Medicine provides a detailed overview of the lighthearted Dr. Lucey’s contribution to medicine; it looks, too, at his pragmatic and creative approach to research. Note: the Times obituary gives the impression that Dr. Lucey created certain therapies, whereas the DM piece illustrates how open-minded Lucey was in studying and promoting treatments originally developed in other countries.

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