Dr. Robert W. “Bob” Gillespie, a surgeon who started the burn and trauma unit at Lincoln's then-St. Elizabeth Community Health Center in 1974, has died at 86.
After the success of the trauma and burn unit in Lincoln, in 1995 Gillespie developed the burn center at then-Clarkson Hospital in Omaha and was its medical director.
He died Thursday at his home in Longmont, Colo., from Parkinson's disease and dementia, his son said. Graveside services were Tuesday in Longmont.
Dr. Kevin Gillespie of Lincoln said his father's interest in trauma and burn care stemmed from his surgery practice and work with child abuse victims.
The elder Gillespie and colleagues also were instrumental in writing guidelines for trauma units, including the “golden hour” for treatment after a traumatic injury, the son said. He added that his father wrote a number of medical articles, which he said is unusual for someone in private practice.
“He was an amazing guy. He was just a great guy with patients and their families,” said Kevin Gillespie, who shared this story:
Bob Gillespie had operated unsuccessfully on a farmer with colon cancer. Later, the farmer was on Gillespie's list of hospital rounds on a day when son Kevin, then an undergraduate college student, accompanied him. While Kevin waited in the hallway, his father spent 15 minutes with the farmer and then wrote notes on the farmer's chart.
What can he write about a farmer who is dying, Kevin wondered. Later, he read his father's note on the chart:
“Dear God: Not fair. Too nice a guy. R. Gillespie”
Bob Gillespie and his wife, Patricia Burgher Hallberg Gillespie, worked together caring for burn patients until the couple retired in 2002.
In 1987 and 1989, the two developed the Advanced Burn Life Support Provider Course and the Pre-Hospital Burn Life Support Course. For 12 years, they taught the courses nationally and internationally.
Bob Gillespie grew up in Sioux City, Iowa, and received a bachelor's degree from Morningside College there. He received a bachelor of science degree in medicine from the University of South Dakota and the degree of medical doctor from the University of Nebraska School of Medicine.
He did a four-year residency in surgery at Wayne County Hospital in Eloise, Mich., and was an Army physician before moving to Lincoln to set up his private surgery practice.
He operated at Lincoln's St. Elizabeth Community Health Center (now St. Elizabeth Regional Medical Center), Bryan Memorial Hospital (now Bryan Medical Center East Campus) and Lincoln General Hospital (now Bryan Medical Center West Campus).
Besides his son and his wife of 28 years, Gillespie is survived by sons Tom Gillespie of Boise, Idaho, Greg Gillespie of Lincoln, Todd Hallberg of Centennial, Colo., and Mark Hallberg of Parker, Colo.; daughters Jeanne Eulberg of Woodinville, Wash., Kathy Smith of Denver and Peg Hallberg of Golden, Colo.; 15 grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.