Our dear friend and esteemed colleague Richard V. Aghababian, MD, FACEP, died in Southborough, Massachusetts, on Oct. 1, 2014, surrounded by his wife, Ann; their two children, Emily and Andrew; and Emily’s husband, Michael Groccia. As fate would have it, Emily’s unborn daughter was already past her due date, and Noella Rose did not arrive until one week later.
Dick and I first met at the ACEP Council in the fall of 1980 when we were both alternate Members of the Council. We became fast friends, and we were both bitten by the political bug. We became integral to the Small Chapter Caucus, and both of us eventually served as President of the College. My term was in 1991, and his in 1995.
Dick was a bright, gifted, and visionary leader. He graduated from Harvard and went on to become a member of the founding class at the University of Massachusetts School of Medicine. After a three-year residency in medicine at Harvard, he did a special two-year fellowship in emergency medicine at the University of San Francisco. After a brief stint in the private practice of EM, Dick became the founding chair of the department of emergency medicine at the University of Massachusetts Memorial Medical Center in Worcester. He retired as associate dean of continuing education, also at the University of Massachusetts.
During my tenure as President of ACEP, I made 55 trips in an 11-month span. Whenever I had major conflicts with my heavy schedule, I could always count on Dick to cover for me and the College. He visited Korea, the Philippines, and Mexico, and was a major force in helping our Mexican emergency physician colleagues establish EM as a recognized specialty there. Additionally, Dick was instrumental in doing the same thing in Israel, and I had the good fortune of playing a minor role during those exhausting proceedings.
Dick was a master teacher and possessed enviable skills as an administrator. His expertise was in disaster medicine, and he consulted in Armenia and Mexico following devastating earthquakes, and in Oklahoma City following the terrorist bombing in 1995. He was the editor of two major textbooks in EM, he was a much sought after lecturer, and he raised considerable funds for both the University of Massachusetts and ACEP. He also served for many years as an oral examiner for the American Board of Emergency Medicine and eventually was honored as a senior examiner.
Although far from being a wine snob, Dick was decidedly a wine connoisseur who had the remarkable ability to identify various red wines by vintner and year! He also knew every hole-in-the wall ice cream shop on Cape Cod, and shared many of those over the years with our family.
Dick will be sorely missed. His last major professional role was that of President of the Massachusetts Medical Society, and it was near the end of his tenure when the bombing occurred during the Boston Marathon. Dick’s final speech to that august group heaped praise on the courageous EMS, firefighters, and police personnel who worked together to save so many lives.
May Dr. Richard Aghababian rest in peace.
Dr. Allison is professor of emergency medical care in the College of Health and Human Sciences at Western Carolina University. He is a Past President of ACEP.