It is with a heavy heart that I'd like to inform our Department of the passing of James L. Hargiss, MD, charter fellow of the American Society of Ophthalmic Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Chairman of Education Committee from 1972-1978, and 2006 Honoree of The ASOPRS Foundation .
He was 96 years young when he passed away 2 weeks ago. Apparently he is as humble in passing as he was while alive as we were unaware of his passing until just recently. No obituary was posted and no memorial was held, but I feel it necessary to inform my friends of colleagues of the passing of one of our true selfless and generous teachers and leaders.
He graduated from the University of Washington in 1945 where he was the Lightweight Boxing Champion, though one would probably never know that because he was a true gentleman. In what may well be a record, his medical career spanned over 8 decades, starting in 1945 when he graduated from the St Louis University School of Medicine and served as a medical officer in World War II as a Naval Reserve in the Pacific Theatre. He finally relinquished in medical license in 2011 on his 90th birthday. His medical career spanned 66 years!!! He was in the operating room with me until June 2011, assisting, teaching, inspiring, and occasionally rolling his eyes, "it didn't work in 1950, and it won't work now".
He trained with other luminaries of our field, Drs. Lester Jones, Wendell Hughes, and Byron Smith and first opened his office in Seattle in 1951 after serving as resident physician in GF Geisinger Hospital in Danville Pennsylvania from 1949-51. He also received a Master’s Degree in Medical Science from the University of Pennsylvania. He performed the first corneal transplants in Seattle in 1956 and co-founded the first CPC and Journal Club in Seattle. He was also a charter member of the AAO. He was one of three founders of the Eye Clinic of Seattle in 1955 and was a volunteer Ophthalmologist at Harborview Medical Center, the only Level 1 Trauma Center in the states of Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho for most of his medical career, even before there was an Ophthalmology Department at the University of Washington.
His practice, The Eye Clinic of Seattle joined with another prominent Clinic, Eye Associates of Seattle, to form Eye Associates Northwest in 1994 and he finally retired from private practice in the late 1990's. But his career was not over because in 2001 he endowed the University of Washington Medical Center's Oculofacial Plastic Surgery Fellowship under Dr. Jim Orcutt's Directorship and was one of the preceptors, officially entering Academic medicine at the ripe age of 80 when most have retired for a decade or two. I was the inaugural fellow, but will always consider myself his fellow because he never stopped teaching me in the operating room until he finally hung up license in 2011.
He was wonderful with patients, staff, medical students, residents and fellows. He was humble, he was funny, and he was a perfect gentleman. He was an artist who could think and spontaneously draw beautiful three dimensional images while teaching me about a surgical procedure, and his manuscript is still used in the UWMC Orbital Dissection course to this day. I could ask Jim anything about any topic, and I would always learn something interesting. He completed the New York Times Crossword Puzzle without pause. He could complete the puzzle with just one set of clues.
It is not a cliché to say that they don't make them like Jim anymore. He is survived by his wife of 66 years, Helen, with whom he drank a nightly Manhattan until his departure, and his three children, Craig, Reid, and Philip.
He will truly be missed.
A.J. Amadi, MD, FACS
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