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Lecture Series

Memories of Robert Hustead, MD
Gary L. Fanning, MD

I know I am not alone among OAS members when I say that Bob Hustead changed my life. His influence on us has been tremendous, and it is difficult to over praise him for all he has given us. His death grieves us all. In relating how he influenced me, I hope to celebrate a little portion of his life and to relate how special his life was for me.

I was hired by the Hauser-Ross Eye Institute in May 1991. There were two stipulations which I had to fulfill before reporting for work on September 1st: I had to attend the meeting of the OAS in June, and I had to spend a day with Bob Hustead in Wichita. Lynn Hauser and Neil Ross greatly respected Bob, and they wanted me to have the benefit of his expertise from the beginning.

I attended the OAS meeting in Banff and met Bob for the first time. It seemed like he was everywhere at the meeting, something I learned was true at every meeting. He knew virtually everyone by name and was often occupied speaking with whomever wanted his ear. I overheard him in the men’s room talking to Roy Hamilton trying to convince him to become the next president of OAS, which he fortunately did. This was a medical meeting like no other I had attended. I learned so much and remember clearly some of the presentations and people at that gathering. Most importantly, I learned that I was not joining a society but becoming a member of a family, and Bob Hustead was clearly the head of the family. He was most gracious when I asked to visit him in Wichita, and we arranged for that to happen in July.

I drove to Wichita from Ames, Iowa, where I was then in practice, on a Sunday. I arrived later in the afternoon, and Bob was occupied in writing his book. He invited me to relax for awhile. I took a walk around his neighborhood, contemplating whether or not I was being wise to leave a successful practice in Ames to embark on an entirely different kind of practice in a small town in Illinois. Bob and Joy were most hospitable, of course, and at an early hour Bob sent me off to the guest bedroom with an armload of reading material to bring me up to speed before morning.

Morning came very early in the Hustead home, and Bob and I were off to the hospital to begin the day. The day was filled with pearls about a lot of things. I remember his bringing a cooler filled with drugs that he had saved from being tossed. He considered it a terrible waste to throw away perfectly good drugs and had no problem keeping them safely in his refrigerator. That practice would be impossible and unacceptable today, but Bob never harmed a single patient by his careful preservation of supplies while saving money and preventing waste.

At the hospital Bob was as active and animated in his practice as we have observed him at meetings. He was comfortable with everyone, and he emphasized to me how important it is to insure that the block be painless for the patient. He also underscored the importance of loving care in the operating room, a responsibility he delegated to Joy for so many years. The two of them formed a perfect team, a wonderful model of and testament to the fact that MDs and CRNAs working together produce a marvelous product—a pain-free, comfortable, and safely managed patient. That very philosophy lives on in the OAS, one of the few organizations where anesthesiologists and nurse anesthetists sit comfortably together and learn from each other. Watching them work was most impressive. I knew then that while I had a lot to learn this would be the kind of practice that I could thoroughly enjoy.

The next time I saw Bob was in the fall of 1991, when Lynn and Neil arranged for him and Roy Hamilton to come to Sycamore to observe my practice and offer constructive criticism. It was a marvelous visit. It allowed me to get to know them much better, and I gathered even more pearls. While they were there, we went to Northern Illinois University and dissected an orbit together. What an experience! There I was listening to two men who were arguably the most learned orbital anatomists on earth! Several months later, Bob and Roy returned and we dissected another orbit, this time putting it on videotape. I was assigned the task of editing the tape and narrating the final product, but all the knowledge came from Bob and Roy. The scholarly gifts I received from those two men during those experiences have been more valuable to me and ultimately to my patients than I can possibly describe.

After a couple of years, Bob asked me to take over planning of the OAS meetings. How could I refuse after all he had already given me? I managed to find speakers and put together the meetings, but for me the best part of every meeting was Bob Hustead. He added so much. Being so well read, so experienced, and so intelligent made him an invaluable resource at every meeting. He challenged everyone: speakers, attendees, and even himself. The greatest part of all our meetings has always been the free and lively discussions following the formal presentations. Bob was certainly the embodiment of the lively part. He might have scared some because of his forceful and aggressive rhetoric, but once you knew Bob you realized how much good humor and open mindedness lay behind that tough exterior. For those of you who have been long-time members of OAS, I ask you to add up how much really valuable clinical medicine you have learned from Bob Hustead over the years. The sheer volume of material he left with all of us will astound you.

I cannot block a patient’s eye without thinking of Bob and of all the little details of doing ophthalmic anesthesia that he imparted to me. I am so grateful to have had him as friend and mentor. Becoming an ophthalmic anesthesiologist had such a positive effect on my life, but I cannot imagine it having been so without the influence of Bob Hustead. I know many of you feel the same, for many of you have had very similar experiences with Bob over the years. Can you begin to imagine how many patients owe their excellent care to the teaching and mentorship of Bob?

I extend my deepest sympathies to Joy and their family. I also extend those sympathies to all of us in OAS who have lost our founder, mentor, and friend. OAS can never be quite the same without Bob, but our continued existence and adherence to the principals he held so dearly will be a fitting and living tribute to his life and work. Thank you for all have you done for us and for our patients, Bob. May God rest your soul.

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