Below is an memorial tribute to Dr Robert Kimbrough written by Don Wesson and me following the death of Dr Kimbrough. It was published by both the American Journal of Medical Sciences and the Texas chapter of the American College of Physicians.
Dr. Robert Kimbrough died on November 24, 2010. For the past 17 years, he was professor of medicine at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in Lubbock. Born in 1941, Bob’s training was excellent and conventional for an internist who specialized in infectious diseases. What was not conventional were his personal and professional characteristics which set him apart from his coevals.
He was one of the last of a disappearing breed—the master clinician and teacher. His recent election as a Master of the American College of Physicians merely confirmed what everyone who had come in contact with Bob as a patient, student or colleague already knew. He was a master at his craft. What almost no one knew was how ill Bob had been over the last 12 years of his life.
It is an axiom of medicine that a physician is to put the welfare of his patients before that of himself or his family. That is an impossibly high standard that few doctors meet, but Bob did. Despite the admonition of his physician (NAK) that he should ease his work load, he continued to assume full-time clinical and teaching responsibilities, almost until the time of his death, because he felt that patient care and teaching in the Department of Internal Medicine at Texas Tech would suffer if he eased his burden.
Bob was available 24/7. You might see him in Bermuda shorts on the surgical floor on a Sunday afternoon, where in short order he would brilliantly analyze all aspects of the complex case that had brought him to the hospital while giving the residents and students holy hell for not calling him sooner and for not being as thorough and incisive as he was. Although the residents might suffer, though they learned a lot from the experience, the patient always benefitted from Bob’s appearance.
Being Bob’s colleague was as rewarding as being his patient. If you needed good advice, his office was the best place to go. If he worked for you, as he did for both of us, he was the ideal faculty member. Although we were his supervisors, Bob provided us both with wise counsel, and his unassuming but effective leadership made the Department of Internal Medicine better. He did
his job with dispatch and was always ready to help out when difficulty appeared. Despite surface gruffness, his students loved him. He was the recipient of numerous teaching awards. They elected him to the Texas Tech chapter of Alpha Omega Alpha. In addition to being a master of the American College of Physicians, the organization had previously given him its laureate award. Texas Tech gave him the Dean’s Distinguished Service Award in 2010.
His clinical excellence was also recognized far from home. He was a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians (Edinburgh).
Bob was one of the country’s premiere experts on medical history. He was a member of the American Osler Society. He had a superb collection of antique books on medical history. He was an oenophile and a champion caliber trap shooter. He also had one of the country’s great collection of bow ties which he wore everywhere except on Sundays when he was in Bermuda shorts.
He is survived by his wife Susan, 4 children, 3 sisters and 4 grandchildren. A fifth grandchild was born after his death. He is also survived by thousands of colleagues, students and patients whose lives were enriched by his. His was a life well lived.
Neil A. Kurtzman, MD
Department of Internal Medicine
Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center
Donald E. Wesson, MD
Department of Internal Medicine
Texas A&M Health Sciences Center College of Medicine