Remembering Dr. Jerold Lucey

It is with great sadness that I am writing to inform you that Jerold F. Lucey, MD, Professor Emeritus of Pediatrics at the University of Vermont and a founder of Vermont Oxford Network, passed away on December 10, 2017. His extraordinary achievements as a clinician, scientist, editor, and educator have transformed the fields of pediatrics and neonatology and contributed to the health and well-being of children and families around the world.

Throughout his distinguished career, Jerry always had the knack for identifying important new therapies and diagnostic techniques, and the wisdom to subject them to rigorous testing. In 1968, he conducted a landmark randomized trial of phototherapy for neonatal jaundice which changed the practice of newborn medicine. Jerry played a critical role in organizing the early clinical trials of exogenous surfactant therapy for the treatment of neonatal respiratory distress syndrome, arguably the most important advancement in the treatment of premature infants. He was a pioneer in applying transcutaneous oxygen monitoring in neonatal intensive care and played a major role in organizing trials of hypothermia for the prevention of neonatal hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy. These are only a few examples of how he served as a catalyst and facilitator for bringing new ideas from the laboratory to the bedside.

Jerry’s importance to pediatrics and neonatology is not limited to his research contributions. As head of the American Academy of Pediatrics Fetus and Newborn Committee from 1966 to 1972, he played a critical role in promoting the concept of regionalization of perinatal care. In 1980, Jerry started Hot Topics in Neonatology, an international meeting of neonatologists that has become a model of how new clinical ideas can be subjected to rigorous scientific scrutiny in a public forum. With uncanny insight and intellectual rigor, Jerry never has failed to identify issues that are truly “hot topics.”

Jerry served as Editor in Chief of Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, for over 30 years. Under his leadership, the journal became an internationally recognized forum for the highest quality scientific research and public debate of issues in child health. Jerry’s own acclaimed editorials have frequently broken important new ground and inspired others to action.

One of Jerry’s most important contributions to the field of neonatal medicine was the establishment of the Vermont Oxford Trials Facilitation Service. Following a sabbatical at the National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit in Oxford, England with Iain Chalmers in the late 1980s, Jerry recognized the possibility of organizing a pragmatic trials network in the US. Vermont Oxford Network was developed from this initial idea and now has grown to become a worldwide community of practice including health professionals at more than 1200 neonatal units around the world.

Jerry was a gifted teacher. By personal example, lectures, ward rounds, and numerous visiting professorships, he directly influenced countless students and practitioners at all levels of training all around the world.  Everyone who has been fortunate enough to experience Jerry’s teaching will agree that his insight, intellect, and innovative ideas were an inspiration to their own work.

In recognition of his extraordinary contributions to pediatrics and neonatology, he has been recognized with numerous prestigious professional awards including the John Howland Award, the highest honor given to an academic pediatrician who exemplifies distinguished service to pediatrics as a whole; the Virginia Apgar Award in Perinatal Pediatrics recognizing an individual whose career has had a continuing influence on the well-being of newborn infants; the AAP Lifetime Achievement Award; and the Lienhard Award of the Institute of Medicine, which recognized his application of medical technologies and procedures which have helped save millions of lives.

On a personal note, since I first came to the University of Vermont over 40 years ago as a pediatric intern, Jerry has been my teacher, my mentor, my colleague, and my friend. It is a privilege and honor to serve as the first Jerold F. Lucey Professor of Neonatal Medicine, an endowed professorship created by the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Vermont with funding from Vermont Oxford Network to honor Jerry’s contributions and perpetuate his academic vision.

Our worldwide community of practice dedicated to providing every newborn infant and family with the best possible and ever improving care is a lasting testament to Jerry Lucey’s vision.

I will miss Jerry greatly as will all of us in pediatrics and neonatology. Please join me in extending our deepest sympathies to Jerry’s family and friends.

Sincerely,​​

Jeffrey

 

Jeffrey D. Horbar, MD

Jerold F. Lucey Professor of Neonatal Medicine

University of Vermont

Chief Executive and Scientific Officer

Vermont Oxford Network

 

Dr. Lucey’s obituary appeared in the New York Times on 12/27/2017.