Tuesday, January 22, 2008

"It was with profound sadness that I learned at 1 am on January 21, 2008 about Jim’s tragic death. Since we met in med school I’ve never known anyone to be as humanistic or caring for others as Jim. He had a way of caring for each and every patient which was the embodiment of his own philosophy. He held true and actually did the things he believed in. He was beloved by those he worked with including me. I worked with Jim on various research and teaching projects, and really I would work on anything to spend more time with the person with more drive and energy than anyone else I knew. He was almost super-human in the way he could accomplish things once he decided he was going to do something. He was focused beyond what most people are capable of. In fact when I took over running the EMG course in ‘06, he handed me a 97 page syllabus that he had been working on, and I knew I was in for it. The year after Jim graduated residency it took 9 residents and an attending to reproduce the EMG course that Jim put on himself.

It is almost incomprehensible how dedicated he was to any task at hand. Those that knew him well know just how much of his personal life he sacrificed for other people. I found out almost a year after he gave me that syllabus that he had given up an entire weekend of his own vacation and cancelled a trip to stay home and work on organizing that material for me. He was the first recipient of the Kessler Resident Teaching Residents Award – the following year the award was named after him. Who has an award named after them while they are alive? Jim. That’s the kind of impact he had.

He gave everything he had to help me at any time. I first met Jim at New Jersey Med School when he was the captain of the rugby team. I really got to know him on a rotation at children’s specialized hospital, he had just started his residency at Kessler and I was a 4th year student. What struck me right away was his interest in teaching me. I had just arrived at the hospital and he handed me two sheets of paper covered in fill-in-the-blanks. He said to me “this is what we’ll be using to learn anatomy”. He systematically went through the entire body over the course of 2 weeks – I would fill in what little I knew and he would teach me every muscle of the upper and lower limbs, their innervations, and mechanism of action. He spent hours of his own time going over and over it with me until I had it down pat. In that way Jim sparked my early interest in musculoskeletal medicine, and my respect for excellent and effective teaching in physiatry. I use the same anatomy sheets to teach students now.

Two years later Jim expressed some interest to me in learning how to juggle. Since I juggle a lot I have had plenty of opportunities to teach people how, probably in the hundreds. As a testament to Jim’s physical prowess, he learned simple and advanced techniques in one sitting faster than anyone I have ever seen. It literally took him about 2 minutes of intense focus to learn to juggle clubs, most people would take weeks or never. A minute later he was juggling advanced passing patterns, one that took me over a year of juggling to learn.

During residency Jim was instrumental in teaching and building my interest in all things related to musculoskeletal medicine. I realized then how much I admired Jim, but it isn’t until looking back that it’s possible to see the overarching influence he had on my life. He would tell me about moments he spent with Scott Nadler and demonstrate approaches he had learned. He brought me in early on research he was doing and got me involved to stimulate my own interest. He recounted what a profound impact his trip to Ecuador had on shaping him. He demonstrated by example how to be a caring physician and an effective leader. He let me in professionally and personally. He was probably the most important mentor in my life to date.

A world without Jim is one that is a little frightening to me. I saw us developing our professional careers together and him making breakthroughs for our field and patients. It is incredibly painful to accept that he will not be around. But he had already succeeded for those patients he touched and those students he influenced. I miss Jim dearly already and wish I could talk to him. I wish I could tell him that in losing him I feel like I’ve lost a part of myself."

Chris Visco, MD
Kessler Resident


Anonymous said...

When Jim was trying to decide which attending position to fill he called me once late at night. I listened to him go back and forth justifying the various advantages to each option. We spent about 2 hours talking it through although as soon as I said the following his decision was clinched. "Jim you know the Kansas Job will be crazy. It's a huge responsibility to start up a directorship and a faculty position."
For Jim it was never about the easy path .It seemed the harder the task more it revved him up.
I miss him

Robert J Kaplan MD said...
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Robert J Kaplan MD said...
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