Robert J. Duran, M.D.
1923 - 2011
Richard F. Edlich, MD, PhD. 74, died at his home in Brush Prairie, Washington, on Christmas morning after a heroic battle with MS. Dr. Edlich, Professor Emeritus, had a distinguished medical career at the University of Virginia Medical School. He entered New York University Medical School at the age of 18 on early admissions from Lafayette College. After receiving his medical degree, Dr. Edlich completed general surgical residency at the University of Minnesota Health Services Center. His teacher and mentor was the famed teacher, Dr. Owen H. Wagensteen, friend and role model for his subsequent teaching career. He completed his plastic surgery residency at the University of Virginia and began teaching as an Assistant Professor in 1973 eventually becoming Distinguished Professor of Plastic Surgery and Professor of Biomedical Engineering. He is the coauthor of seven books and more than 800 scientific articles. During his years at the University of Virginia, Dr. Edlich founded, designed, and served as director of the 16 bed University of Virginia Burn and Wound Healing Center. Treatment of burn injuries and complex wounds at the center was a multidisciplinary research effort involving basic scientists as well as health care professionals. Collaborative efforts resulted in numerous innovative products, surgical techniques and tests used throughout the world.
The Reinforced Steri-Strip (3M, Minneapolis, MN) has been used in more than a billion patients for wound closure. A wound cleanser has successfully decontaminated wounds in more than ten million patients without a single reported toxic reaction. As a result of his research into the toxic effects of the use of powdered latex gloves, alternative gloves are now standard in hospitals and the medical profession. In 2000, Dr. Edlich received the Harvey Stuart Allen Medal from the American Burn Association in recognition of his significant contributions to burn care. Today, the Edlich Henderson Invention of the Year award is given to inventors of Technology at UVA who have developed technology of notable value to the society. From 1971 until 1982, Dr. Edlich was Director of the Emergency Medical Service at the University of Virginia Hospital. Dr. Edlich and Dr. Ernst Attinger developed a comprehensive medical system in the Commonwealth of Virginia. They championed the development of basic and advanced life-support training for physicians, a telemetered medical system for emergency care, a rape crisis center, a crisis center for psychiatric emergencies, and the Pegasus Flight Operations.
Dr. Edlich volunteered as the physician technical advisor for emergency care for Washington, DC, Maryland, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania under Dr. David Boyd with the Department of Health and Human Services. As a result he received the Distinguished Service Award from the Department of Health and Human Services. In 2008 Dr. Edlich was recipient of the James D. Mills Award, the highest academic honor given by the American College of Emergency Physicians. In recognition of his commitment to teaching, the University of Virginia Alumni honored Dr. Edlich with its Distinguished Professor Award. Dr. Edlich was the recipient of the Commonwealth of Virginia's Council of Higher Education's Outstanding Faculty Award in 1989. His work was honored by the Southeastern Society for Plastic Reconstructive Surgery's first prize for surgical research, the Virginia Surgical Society's Bigger-Lehman Award, and the University Association of Emergency Medicine's President's Award. In 1991, Dr. Edlich received the Thomas Jefferson Award, the highest academic honor presented by the University of Virginia. In 2005 Dr. Edlich was awarded the Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Minnesota Alumni Association. Realizing the importance of partnerships between the University and industry, Dr. Edlich championed the development of the North Fork Research Park. In recognition of Dr. Edlich's vision of a modern industrial park in Charlottesville, the University named the street entrance to the park "Edlich Drive". Endowments were raised by friends and colleagues that now support the Richard F. Edlich Chair in Plastic Surgical Research, the annual Richard F. Edlich Medical Student Research Award in Emergency Medicine, and the Scientist of the Year Award from the University of Virginia Patent Foundation.
Sagacity, integrity, and benignity crowned his life with honor. He always had time for medical students and residents, frequently opening his home for social interactions. The true legacy of Richard Edlich was that he made us all better people.
David B. Drake, M.D.