Special Article

Barry Rumack - A Tribute

Frederick H. Lovejoy, Jr., M.D.
William Beremberg Professor of Pediatrics
Harvard Medical School
Associate Physician-in-Chief
Children's Hospital
Boston, Massachusetts

Int J Med Toxicol 2002; 5(2): 5

What is the Ellenhorn Award? - 1998; 1(1): 6
1998 Ellenhorn Award Lecture - 1998; 1(4): 22
1999 Ellenhorn Award Lecture - 2000; 3(2): 3
2000 Ellenhorn Award Lecture - 2000; 3(5): 31

It was 1974-the country was enmeshed in its most divisive of times. It was in those turbulent national times that a young Barry Rumack was to begin his assault on a relatively new area of medicine-clinical toxicology. It is not to say that the area was without its leaders. Arena, Thienes, Done had done much to establish it as a clinical discipline but toxicology over the next 20 years was to change drastically in this country and we can say with certainty that Barry was a principle mover in its remarkable growth.

Barry Rumack's early education had been well grounded with a B.S. from the University of Chicago with a major in microbiology, an M.D. from the University of Wisconsin and three years of pediatric training at the University of Colorado. A proclivity for medical research and scholarship were evident in the earliest publications, "The Cytopathogenic Effect of Brucella Spheroblasts on Monocytes" and "The Kinetics of the Hepatic P450 System" with Holtzman during fellowship at the National Cancer Institute and at the University of Colorado.

Like all successful physicians, Barry had important mentors, in his case the Two Henrys: Henry Kempe, the beloved and revered chief of pediatrics in Denver who was to be a lasting influence as a model of what an academic should aspire to be. From the second Henry, or Henry Matthew from Edinburgh, in five months Barry learned regional care, fellowship training and the care of the sick whether adult or child. In that short time, he also created the Rumack-Matthew Nomogram for acetaminophen poisoning. It was from these sound beginnings that Barry at 32 became the director of the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center.

How to summarize the remarkable accomplishments over the years? New knowledge was at its core-by current count: 197 original publications, 70 chapters, 16 books and monographs and over 157 abstracts exist. However, Barry was not unaware that it was quality not quantity that counts. Two strong evidences exist for this. An esteemed Professor of Surgery at our institution has said that one can know if an individual's accomplishments are significant when a disease is immediately linked with a person. There can be little doubt that acetaminophen overdose and its treatment and drug and poison information systems, Drugindex, Emergindex, and Poisindex, are inexorably linked with Barry Rumack.

The record of scholarly contribution is constant throughout the years. It is diverse in its contribution with over 50 drugs and subjects explored and better understood because of Barry's writings. Its focus on descriptive toxicology, interventional approaches, drug and poison information, poison prevention, and delivery of poison services is a record of Herculean proportions. The publications are in journals of high academic quality, rigorously peer reviewed and ranging from pediatrics to internal medicine, emergency medicine, pharmacology, pharmacy, and clinical toxicology. The publications are generous in their lead authorship, practical and pragmatic in their influence, and analytic drawing on basic principles of epidemiology and biostatistics. Finally, they are inclusive of all members of the team, nurses, pharmacists and physicians, reflecting the best in a multidisciplinary approach.

It is often said that one can identify the best programs by their product. The products of the Rocky Mountain Poison Center are no exception-Peterson, Sullivan, Snodgrass, Linden, Bronstein, Smilkstein, Bryson, Kulig, Hall, and Brent. They represent quality, and now the responsibility to carry on a tradition of excellence. And the efforts are not limited to physicians with Watanabe, Connor, Golightly, and Spoerke, constant collaborators as pharmacists and Ford, Winokur, and Wruk as nurses.

And what of Barry's contribution beyond Denver? As a teacher, he crisscrossed this country and beyond, teaching the principles of toxicology and poison control. He gave of himself generously to the Committee on Toxicology and Information and Scientific Review Board of the National Library of Medicine, to the Committee on Accidents and Poisoning and the Committee on Drugs of the Academy of Pediatrics and to the National Clearinghouse of Poison Control Centers and the Consumer Product Safety Commission. As President of the American Association of Poison Control Centers, he set the body in a new direction-its way of doing business today, and as an examiner and Chairman of the American College of Medical Toxicology he was a driving force in establishment of the American Board of Medical Toxicology. Our societies have given him their highest honors, The Annual Recognition Award of the Association of Poison Control Centers and the Thienes Award from the Academy of Clinical Toxicology.

And what of the man, pediatrician, husband father and friend? His contributions as a pediatrician and as a member of the Colorado faculty reflect the same commitment to his work that he showed in toxicology. His recognition as a full professor at the young age of 43 was a reflection of that stellar performance. But it was on the home front that I came to know that Barry had his priorities right. Early on he announced, "I will not give talks on weekends," and in that simple statement was his view of the importance of family. Careful scrutiny of his CV reference 95 show Rumack and Rumack, with CM preceding BH, a wise sense of order and reflection of his deeply felt admiration for Carol. And finally, as a colleague and friend, the journey together has indeed been meaningful, fulfilling, and always enjoyable.

Barry, Congratulations.

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