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Paul A. Ebert – 1932 - 2009

Paul Allen Ebert, MD died in the early hours of April 21st, 2009 in Sacramento, California quite unexpectedly of an acute myocardial infarction at 76 years of age. He was a towering figure of a man, a virtual giant upon whose shoulders a generation of trainees, colleagues, admirers, sports fans, philosophers, friends, and family members stood. He could have done anything it seemed, which made his premature passing all the more poignant for the stark realization that he won’t be with us any more.

He was recently enshrined in Wikipedia:

Paul Allen Ebert (born August 11, 1932 in Columbus, Ohio) is a former director of the American College of Surgeons and a noted former athlete. He had been Chairman of the Departments of Surgery at both Cornell University Medical College and the University of California San Francisco Medical Center, as well as the President of the American College of Cardiology, the American Association for Thoracic Surgery, the Society of University Surgeons, and the Western Thoracic Surgical Association. Before earning his medical degree, he had been an All American in both baseball and basketball at the Ohio State University.

As a student at Ohio State Ebert was 6'4", 188 lbs. He was a forward and center on the school's basketball team and a pitcher on the baseball team. He was a charter member of the Ohio State Varsity O Hall of Fame, inducted in 1977.

In basketball Ebert was a first-team All-Big Ten selection and voted team MVP every year he played for the Buckeyes, 1951-52, 1952-53, and 1953- 54. He led his team in scoring in each of those years. He finished his collegiate basketball career with the team record in points scored (1,436), surpassed in 1956 by Robin Freeman. Ebert scored 516 points in his senior year, becoming the first Ohio State player to score at least 500 points in a season. That year Ebert served as team captain and was named a third- team All-America selection by the United Press International.

In baseball Ebert had a career 21-8 record as a pitcher. He led his team in both wins and strike outs every year he played. He finished his collegiate career with the Ohio State single-season (94) and career (223) record for strike outs, surpassed in both categories by Steve Arlin in the mid-1960s. Ebert was a consensus first team All America selection as a senior.

After college Ebert spent two summers playing semi-pro baseball in Marshall, Minnesota. At the end of the first summer in Marshall he returned to Columbus to be married to Louise Joyce Parks and to begin medical school at Ohio State. Ebert received offers to sign with the New York Giants and Pittsburgh Pirates, but under the bonus baby rules of the time he would have been required to stay with the major league club for two years and could not have attended medical school.

Ebert received his M.D. degree from Ohio State University in 1958. He had internship and residency at Johns Hopkins Hospital under Alfred Blalock, and then spent two years as a Senior Assistant Surgeon at the National Heart Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland. He specialized in thoracic and cardiovascular surgery. He is considered one of the world's outstanding pediatric heart surgeons.

Ebert's stature in his field quickly grew. He became a Professor of Surgery at Duke University Medical Center. From 1971 to 1975 he was Chairman of the Department of Surgery at Cornell University Medical College and from 1975 to 1986 he was Chairman of the Department of Surgery at the University of California San Francisco Medical Center. He was a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons since 1968, and assumed the directorship of the College in November 1986.

Ebert was the 1989 recipient of the Theodore Roosevelt Award, the highest honor the National Collegiate Athletic Association may confer on an individual, awarded to a distinguished citizen of national reputation based on outstanding life accomplishment.

After marrying Louise Joyce Parks, Paul and Joyce went on to have 3 children. Leslie Ebert Buhlman, Mike Ebert and Julie Ebert-McQuillan. They are currently grandparents to 5 children. Holly, Rudy, Claire and Paul Buhlman and Danyon Ebert-McQuillan. Dr. and Mrs. Paul A. Ebert currently reside outside of Sacramento, CA and are doing well. Our father's accomplishments as a surgeon, leader and father make us very proud.

Paul Ebert’s accomplishments were legendary but it was the essence of the man that people loved. He was kind and sympathetic to his patients; he guided his trainees with skill and serenity; he could “get out of himself” to recognize the needs and concerns of others. He was a very unselfish man.

Most of us loved to talk to Paul–especially about sports. It was easy to see why he was such an accomplished surgeon; he had the hand-eye coordination of a two sport All American. I asked him once, “Dr Ebert, what was your favorite shot?” In a rare moment of unabashed expression of self- confidence, almost wondering why I would ask such a naive question, he responded “Gus, when you’re quick, it doesn’t matter!” It was one of those moments of “You gotta love this guy.”

In the end, history will remember Paul Ebert for the Renaissance man that he was: scholar, quintessential surgeon, investigator, athlete of legendary proportions, and committed teacher. His family will remember him for his love, affection, candor, and unconditional devotion. Those who worked with him will remember his virtues, humanity, humor, and sensitivity. We will all miss him.

Constantine Mavroudis, MD
Pediatric and Congenital Heart Surgery
Cleveland Clinic Foundation 
Cleveland, OH USA

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

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