DMS mourns former Dean McCollum
Renowned epidemiologist Robert W. McCollum, MD, who in 8½ years as dean of Dartmouth Medical School helped pave the way for the evolution of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center to national recognition as an academic medical center, died at his home in Etna, N.H. on Monday, September 13, 2010, after a long illness. He was the husband of psychotherapist and author Audrey McCollum.
During the build-up to the move of the new DHMC campus to neighboring Lebanon, Dr. McCollum oversaw substantial increases in research funding and the establishment of eight new endowed chairs for DMS faculty. Near the end of his tenure, he played a key role in forging the agreement under which DMS's Department of Psychiatry provides all the mental-health care for New Hampshire residents at the state hospital in Concord.
"Bob was my first dean when I arrived here in late 1983," recalls William Green, PhD, the current DMS dean and soon-returning chair of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology. "I was very fortunate to begin my career at DMS under his leadership, which was characterized by his positivity, integrity, and humanity. One of the special things Bob did so well was to nurture individual faculty members in a personal way. Whenever you received a new grant or competing renewal, for example, he always sought you out to congratulate you in person or by a personal note. And he was very adept at recognizing the faculty members with good ideas and energy, and giving them the opportunity to develop those initiatives."
Dr. McCollum came to Dartmouth in 1982 from the Yale University School of Medicine, where he chaired the department of epidemiology and public health for 12 years and taught for 27 years. In addition to his work in medical education, he wrote and researched tirelessly about the causes and epidemiology of viral diseases - particularly hepatitis, on which he led study groups for the World Health Organization (WHO) and the National Academy of Sciences. Before joining the Yale faculty, Dr. McCollum had served two years as a captain in the Army Medical Corps, including a stint in the hemorrhagic-fever research lab of a mobile Army surgical hospital (MASH) in Korea.
"He made seminal contributions to our understanding of the patho-physiology of polio, infectious mononucleosis, and hepatitis B infection while he was at Yale," says infectious disease specialist John Modlin, MD, a DMS professor of pediatrics and of medicine. "Bob worked alongside of some of the giants in virology including Dorothy Horstmann, with whom he studied the importance of viremia in clinical poliomyelitis, and Saul Krugman, who first distinguished serum hepatitis (now called hepatitis B) disease from infectious hepatitis (now hepatitis A). He also was a key member of the Yale group that discovered that Epstein-Barr virus was the cause of infectious mononucleosis. Bob devoted most of the later stages of his scientific career to prevention of hepatitis B with immune globulin and with vaccination.
"He was influential as a physician and scientist because he was always able to see the big picture and communicate clearly and effectively. He was a humble and unassuming person who downplayed his own accomplishments and thus may not have received the credit he deserved for all he did."
Dr. McCollum's colleagues at Dartmouth appreciated both his personal and professional sides.
"Bob's tenure as dean of our medical school was one that reflected his kindness and compassion towards others," recalls Ethan Dmitrovsky, MD, a former interim dean who is DMS's American Cancer Society clinical research professor and a professor of pharmacology and toxicology and of medicine. "He cared deeply about Dartmouth and made substantial contributions to our community during and after his deanship. He was a role model for all who served after him as dean."
In addition to teaching and maintaining some of his research interests after his retirement as dean, Dr. McCollum turned his energies toward social and environmental causes. He also honed his skills as a photographer, shooting a wide range of subjects to go with books and articles that his wife was writing.
Dr. McCollum was born in Waco, Texas, in 1925, and graduated from Baylor University there. He earned his medical degree at Johns Hopkins University in 1948, and 10 years later added a doctorate in public health from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Between his MD and DPH studies, he completed internships in pathology at New York's Presbyterian Hospital and internal medicine at Vanderbilt University Hospital, a residency in internal medicine at Yale-New Haven Medical Center, and a year as a research assistant in preventive medicine at the Yale School of Medicine.
In addition to his wife, Dr. McCollum leaves a son, Doug McCollum, and a daughter, Cindy McCollum. He is also survived by two grandsons, Justin McCollum and Zach McCollum; a son-in-law, John Spellman; and a daughter-in-law, Karen McCollum.
Donations in his memory may be made to the Dean Robert W. McCollum Scholarship Fund, c/o Dartmouth Medical School, Office of Development, 1 Medical Center Drive, Lebanon, N.H. 03756.
Read The New York Times’ obituary for Dr. McCollum here.
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