Letter to the Editor: EM Has Lost a True Giant : Emergency Medicine News

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Letter to the Editor

Letter to the Editor

EM Has Lost a True Giant

doi: 10.1097/01.EEM.0000898272.65468.f4


    I was deeply saddened to learn of Dr. James Roberts' passing. But perhaps even more so, I was incredulous. He was a force of nature—omnipresent, indefatigable, and ageless. Your comments captured so much of what so many admired about Jim (“James R. Roberts, MD, a Titan of Emergency Medicine.” EMN. 2022;44[9]:1; https://bityl.co/ESoi), but I wanted to share a few thoughts about the emergency physician and man I knew for almost four decades as an exemplar and colleague.

    It's impossible to overemphasize his contributions to the field or his fine personal qualities, but your comments did justice to the encomia Jim deserved. They were, unsurprisingly, inextricably linked.

    Jim was “old school” in every good sense, and why not? When I first met Jim in the 1970s, there were fewer (much fewer) than 100 trained emergency physicians in the entire country. He was quintessentially disciplined, industrious, solid, and reliable. I can't recall any emergency physician I've known who more consistently delivered more than he promised. Jim was the type of person you would not only want in your foxhole but especially at sign-out. He was a person of transcendent integrity, authenticity, and substance.

    Jim never had an unkind word to say about anyone, and while he could be curt with knaves and difficult consultants, he was never dismissive. But that did not mean he was oblivious or tolerated fools gladly—quite the contrary. He just was so focused, disciplined, and patient- and teaching-centered that he did not let these sorts of situations or people or his ego get him off track. Very few emergency physicians have this intentional level of composure clinically.

    You described Jim as modest, but I would go further. He was extremely humble and always self-deprecating yet unflappable and confident because he was intentional and always did his homework. These are traits hardly characteristic in our specialty, where bravado and corner-cutting are not rare.

    Indeed, it was this humility I suspect that drove his lifelong curiosity and commitment to sustain and hone his craft ceaselessly. Jim was probably the only emergency physician I knew whose board scores probably rose each time he recertified. Jim was, hands down, the best student ever in the history of emergency medicine, as anyone who read his columns, composed even after he was in his 70s, knows. When he finally “retired” from clinical practice not too long ago, I know everyone in my generation breathed a sigh of relief; now we could retire too without any sense of guilt!

    Jim not too long ago used his column to comprehensively list the all-stars of emergency medicine he had known throughout his long career. (“Looking Back on a Career in Emergency Medicine.” EMN. 2022;44[6]:10; https://bityl.co/ESpI.) I would enthusiastically add his name to this hall-of-fame roster posthumously in his first year of eligibility. We've lost a true giant.

    J. Douglas White, MD, MPH, MBA

    Dr. White is the editor-in-chief of The American Journal of Emergency Medicine.

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