Friday, November 11, 2011

In Memoriam: John “Jack” Burke, MD


John “Jack” Burke, MD, who established the MGH Burn Research Center, died of pancreatic cancer Nov. 2 at the age of 89. During his 60-year career at the MGH, Burke helped advance techniques in burn care, including pioneering the development of artificial skin to treat burn patients, a therapy that ultimately became standard practice for treating major burn injuries.

“Dr. Jack Burke was one of the true giants in the clinical care, scientific discovery and teaching of modern burn therapy. His contributions have saved and improved the lives of patients around the world and will affect burn care for many, many years to come,” says Jay Austen, MD, chief of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.  

Burke was born July 22, 1922, in Chicago. After serving in the Army during World War II, he attended Harvard Medical School (HMS) and received his medical degree in 1951. Burke was named chief of the MGH Trauma Services in 1974. He also served as chief of surgery at the Shriners Burns Institute from 1968 to 1980 and chief of staff there from 1969 to 1980. In 1976, he was named the Helen Andrus Benedict Professor of Surgery at HMS. During his career, Burke developed techniques for excising burned skin and immediately grafting new skin on the burned sites, as well as developing and refining artificial skin
for grafting.

Paul Russell, MD, former chief of the Department of Surgery, remembers Burke as a “capable and well-regarded surgeon having been broadly trained in general and thoracic surgery. Jack was very well-liked and respected by all of his colleagues and was known throughout the world for his contributions. He had a wonderful wry sense of humor and an unquenchable cheerfulness that made him especially popular.”

Burke is survived by his wife, Agnes, and their children, John, Peter and Anne, as well as eight grandchildren and one great-grandchild. His son Andrew preceded him in deat

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