Dr. Gary F. Purdue was an administrator at UT Southwestern Medical Center and Parkland Memorial Hospital, who nonetheless worked in the trenches of his profession.
"He was a working physician," said Dr. John Hunt, Dr. Purdue's co-director at the Parkland burn unit. "As they say in the profession, he wore three hats – research, teaching and administration. ... There's a lot of sadness around Parkland tonight."
Dr. Purdue, 65, died early Sunday morning while driving his motorcycle to work. A Parkland spokesman said Dr. Purdue had been wearing a helmet.
At his death, Dr. Purdue was chief of the burn section in the department of surgery at UT Southwestern and had been co-director of the Parkland burn unit for 22 years. Parkland has one of the largest burn units in the nation, treating almost 1,000 burn victims annually.
He was also a past president of the American Burn Association. A native of Elmira, N.Y., Dr. Purdue received his medical degree from Jefferson Medical College in Pennsylvania in 1976 and completed his general surgery residency at Mercy Hospital in Pittsburgh in 1981.
Just before Dr. Purdue entered medical school, his father was electrocuted in a boating accident, which colleagues said reinforced Dr. Purdue's desire to become a doctor. While attending medical school, he worked as a paramedic for a volunteer fire department.
"Dr. Purdue was an outstanding clinician, educator and role model," Dr. Bruce Meyer, executive vice president for health systems affairs at UT Southwestern, said in a prepared statement released Sunday night by UT Southwestern.
"This is a truly tragic, senseless loss for not only his family and the UT Southwestern and Parkland communities, but also for the citizens of North Texas and all the thousands of patients whose lives he touched."
Although at the traditional retirement age, Dr. Purdue would only vaguely talk of retiring in a few years, according to Dr. Hunt. He and his wife helped the Gladney Center for Adoption over the years by caring for 39 infants awaiting adoption.
Dr. Hunt said that Dr. Purdue enjoyed riding his motorcycle to work but was very safety-conscious.
"He was very conservative about it," Dr. Hunt said. "He was careful about wet streets. He'd only ride it in nice weather."
He is survived by his wife, Laurel; daughter, Heather; sons, Ian, Keith and Kyle, and one grandson.
A memorial service for Dr. Purdue will be held on Saturday October 9, 2010 at the First Baptist Church Carrollton, 2400 N. Josey Lane, Carrollton, TX 75006 at 1:00 pm.
There will be a reception immediately following the service at the church.
Memorial contributions may be directed to:
University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center
Designated Fund for Burn Care in Memory of Dr. Gary F. Purdue
P. O. Box 910888
Dallas, TX 75391-0888