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Thomas L. Petty: Extraordinary Clinician, Bold Innovator, Inspiring Educator, Loyal Friend, World-Class Raconteur, and Waltonesque Angler FREE TO VIEW

Michael D. Iseman, MD, FCCP; James T. Good, Jr, MD, FCCP
Author and Funding Information

From the Division of Mycobacterial and Respiratory Infections (Dr Iseman), Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine (Dr Good), Department of Medicine, National Jewish Medical and Research Center.

Correspondence to: Michael D. Iseman, National Jewish Medical and Research Center, Department of Medicine, Division of Mycobacterial and Respiratory Infections, 1400 Jackson St. Denver, CO, 80206-1997; e-mail: isemanm@njc.org

Financial/nonfinancial disclosures: The authors have reported to CHEST that no potential conflicts of interest exist with any companies/organizations whose products or services may be discussed in this article.

Reproduction of this article is prohibited without written permission from the American College of Chest Physicians (www.chestpubs.org/site/misc/reprints.xhtml).

© 2010 American College of Chest Physicians

Chest. 2010;137(6):1255-1256. doi:10.1378/chest.10-0606
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Dr Thomas L. Petty lost his 10-year struggle with cardiac disease and pulmonary hypertension on Saturday, December 12, 2009. Dr Petty’s commitment to continuing medical education and focus on excellence in patient care were among his greatest gifts to the American College of Chest Physicians (ACCP). He was the senior editor of CHEST from 1970-1975 and the President of the ACCP from 1981-1982. In 1995, Dr Petty was elected a Master Fellow, the ACCP’s highest honor. In 2007, as a special tribute to him, The CHEST Foundation established the Thomas L. Petty, MD, Master FCCP Endowment in Lung Research. At this event, hundreds of colleagues, friends, and associates personally thanked Dr Petty for his lifetime commitment to the education of physicians, other health-care workers, and patients with pulmonary disease.

Intertwined with the rigorous scientific discipline that marked his career, Dr Petty harbored some quasimystical views on life. One of his notions was that he would die in the month of his birth. In recent Decembers he had survived a cardiac arrest and sepsis. This year his vision came to pass. Those who knew him well are sure that he would have a subtle grin on his face at his “prognostic skill.”

As Dr Petty observed ironically, he—who had played a pivotal role in home oxygen therapy in the 1960s—spent his last years tethered to a catheter and concentrator. Despite the profound limitations his condition imposed on his exercise capacity, his extraordinary intellect, unquenchable scientific curiosity, and intense interest in the world, writ large, burned brightly to the end. His eyes lit up when an old colleague would visit, recalling complex cases (including their arterial blood gases [ABGs], pulmonary function tests and ventilator settings) from decades ago. But, his ever-active love of medicine was not content to dwell in the past. An avid reader of the medical literature to the end, he could expound on the latest article with the skill of a young academic on rounds.

Dr Petty would never shrink from a challenge, be it the decision as an intern to obtain an “experimental” study on one of his patients (an ABG), the obvious (to him) need to provide oxygen at home for his COPD patients with cor pulmonale, or the equally intuitive need to provide pulmonary rehabilitation for his patients with progressive debility. His “ABG” decision got him into hot water, but Dr Petty, throughout his career, would fight for what he deemed “just causes.” No hitter has batted 1,000, but Dr Petty’s instincts and judgment would make him a first-vote Hall of Famer.

Dr Petty was a “bigger than life” character. He enjoyed many professional friendships around the world. But those who were fortunate enough to work with Dr Petty over his decades here in Colorado were singularly blessed. Whether it is at a view-box discussing a complex case, telling one of his innumerable jokes, or describing a big rainbow trout that did not get away, his image will be an enduring inspiration. His career is testament to the adage that the greatest gift is giving to others.



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