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    Monday, January 17, 2005

    Unfortunate Son: Jonathon Drummond-Webb, a prominent pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon had everything going for him:

    The son of two well-to-do liberal intellectuals, whose surnames form his hyphenated name, Dr. Drummond-Webb attended boarding school and earned a medical degree at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. After two years service in the South African army, he completed a residency in cardiothoracic surgery at Johannesburg Hospital.

    Encouraged by his wife, Dr. Lorraine E. de Blanche, Dr. Drummond-Webb emigrated to escape South African government restrictions on medical practice. In 1993, he became a fellow in cardiovascular and thoracic surgery at the University of Utah LDS Hospital in Salt Lake City.

    Two years later, he moved to the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, one of the most prominent centers in the United States for heart surgery.

    He was lured to the Little Rock hospital by what he saw as a state of the art operating room, an enthusiastic surgical staff, and unlimited potential. He was determined to build the hospital into a nationally dominant pediatric cardiac center.

    Dr. Drummond-Webb, who said he competed in triathlons merely to keep himself in shape for surgery, also became an associate professor of surgery in the College of Medicine at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. He conducted research and set a frenetic pace performing surgeries -- nearly three times the normal annual tally of 200.

    And yet, it wasn't enough, or maybe it was too much:

    Drummond-Webb killed himself on Dec. 26, authorities say; he reportedly overdosed on painkillers and bourbon, three days after what seemed like another miracle: the successful use of a miniature heart pump that kept a 14-year-old boy alive until an organ became available for transplant.

    The 45-year-old surgeon left a profanity-laced suicide note, officials say. In it he indicated he felt that his work was underappreciated, and he ranted about colleagues at Arkansas Children's Hospital and at the Cleveland Clinic, where he had worked.

    'Every day my living hell!!' the note read. 'These people don't care. I have a gift to save babies. The world is not ready for me.'

    ....Colleagues said Drummond-Webb was his toughest critic.

    'Some would say they saved 98 out of 100,' said the Arkansas Children's Hospital's chief executive, Dr. Jonathan Bates. 'He looked at it and said, 'I lost two out of 100.'

    Working at triple the normal pace has its price.

    posted by Sydney on 1/17/2005 08:42:00 PM 0 comments


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