A tribute to Dr. Robert S. Evans

The following talk was delivered by Dr. Robert Petersdorf, Professor and Chair of the Department of Medicine, to physicians from the UW School of Medicine who assembled for Grand Rounds, on September 26, 1974, the morning following an automobile accident that took the life of Dr. Robert S. Evans.

Dr. Robert Evans
Dr. Robert Evans

Yesterday the Department of Medicine, the School of Medicine, the University and the entire community suffered an irreplaceable loss when Dr. Robert S. Evans, Professor of Medicine, and until today two months ago, Chief of Medicine at the Veterans Administration (V.A.) Hospital, was killed in an automobile accident on the Mercer Island reversible lane.

Bud Evans was a native Seattleite, who after training in the Thorndike and holding a junior faculty position at Stanford, came back to Seattle in 1951 to join a small group of excellent young people that Bob Williams recruited as the nucleus of this Department of Medicine.

From the beginning until his retirement two months ago, he was the first and only Chief of Medicine the VA Hospital here ever had. In his quiet gentlemanly way, he exerted an extraordinary influence on the Department and most particularly on the young men and women who came here for training. He was for them always the example of the thoughtful, compassionate physician, the wise counselor and the warm friend.

For those of us who had the privilege of working with him closely, he was the best of colleagues – no task was too much, no last-minute grand rounds discussion too much of an imposition – he was always there – even to the point of becoming acting Chairman for nine months when I went on sabbatical.

During two decades of his leadership, the Department of Medicine at the VA grew in numbers and excellence but I did not realize the magnitude of the impact he made until we had to look for his replacement. The indelible imprint he had left not only on the Department of Medicine but on the entire VA Hospital was clear.

Some three years ago, Bud had indicated his desire to retire from his position as Chief of Medicine at the VA. With the modesty that was so characteristic of him, he thought that it was time for a younger man to work with the house staff and students, to say grace over an expanding faculty and to figure the battles with Central Office. That it took three years to replace him attests to the large shoes we needed to fill.

But Bud didn’t really retire. He remained a Professor in the Department of Medicine and had plans to continue to teach and to contribute to patient care; in fact, he was on his way to Harborview, where he was taking a refresher course in cardiology with Len Cobb when he died so suddenly and tragically.

Everyone lost something with Bud Evans’ death. His family lost a wonderful husband and father, those on the faculty lost a wonderful colleague, the medical students and house officers lost a wonderful teacher, his patients lost a warm physician, and all of us lost one of the last of a vanishing breed – a real gentleman.

Bud was a frequent contributor to these rounds both from the podium and from the audience. And it is for this very reason that we are going ahead with this exercise today. We know that he would want us to do so. Dr. Lewis will present the case.