VUMC mourns loss of noted cardiologist PageAug. 3, 2022, 4:18 PM
by Matt Batcheldor
Harry Lee Page Jr., MD, a pioneer of modern cardiology and a presence at Vanderbilt for decades, died Aug. 1 after a long illness. He was 88.
Dr. Page was founding partner of the Page-Campbell Cardiology Group at Saint Thomas Hospital in 1970, which merged with Vanderbilt Heart and Vascular Institute in 2006. Beginning his practice when coronary artery surgery was still in its infancy and highly controversial, he was involved in a series of firsts, including one of the first coronary angioplasties in the United States.
Dr. Page — named for his ancestor, Revolutionary War hero General Henry “Light-Horse Harry” Lee III — was born and raised in Gainesboro, Tennessee. He graduated cum laude from Vanderbilt University in 1955 and obtained his MD from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in 1959. He remained at Vanderbilt for an internship followed by two years of medical residency and served as chief medical resident at Thayer Veteran’s Administration Hospital in Nashville from March to July 1962.
Following residency, he fulfilled his draft obligation, serving as a lieutenant at the United States Naval Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, while he simultaneously held an appointment as clinical assistant in medicine at the Memphis University of Tennessee Hospital. In 1964, he was awarded a two-year National Institutes of Health scholarship as a cardiology fellow at the University of Colorado cardiology program in Denver.
In 1966, Dr. Page returned to Nashville to a brief cardiology practice with Crawford Adams, MD. He was then employed by Saint Thomas Hospital as director of Cardiology in 1967. Page was joined by three highly trained cardiovascular surgeons at a time when coronary artery surgery was still in its infancy and highly controversial.
In 1970, Saint Thomas and Vanderbilt University developed a teaching partnership. Dr. Page eventually rose to the position of clinical professor of Medicine in 1982. As the cardiology program at Saint Thomas began to grow, Dr. Page was joined in 1970 by W. Barton Campbell, MD, with whom he then co-directed the cardiology program at Saint Thomas for the next 25 years.
“It’s truly the end of an era,” Campbell said. “There has been a huge evolution in our field since 1970 when we really got underway. His passing is a bit of a milestone in the sense that he pioneered some of this.”
Dr. Page pioneered the development of a community cardiac catheterization laboratory at Saint Thomas Hospital which opened under his direction on February 1, 1968. In August 1978 while visiting his sister in Zurich, Switzerland, he serendipitously attended the demonstration of a new procedure, percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty (PTCA) by Andreas Grüntzig, MD, who was just developing this (then controversial) technique.
Dr. Page obtained equipment with further PTCA training in Zurich and on Sept. 5, 1979, performed his first United States coronary angioplasty at a colleague’s catheterization laboratory in Syracuse, New York. This was among the first four or five such procedures done in the United States. He then returned to Nashville to carry out the first coronary angioplasty procedure in the Mid-South at Saint Thomas Hospital on Nov. 6, 1979.
Dr. Page was a founding member of the Society for Cardiac Angiography and Intervention, serving as president in 1985. He was governor of the Tennessee chapter of the American College of Cardiology from 1978 to 1981. He was president of the Saint Thomas medical staff in 1983 and 1984.
Dr. Page was on the editorial boards of Heart and Lung and Catheterization and Cardiovascular Diagnosis. Locally he served on the board of directors of Ensworth School, of the Canby Robinson Society, and the Nashville Opera. He was skilled in languages and fluent in German. He played classical guitar, occasionally playing with his friend, country music star Chet Atkins. He was a co-founder of Cardiology Consultants, P.C., which in 1995 was renamed by its younger members, “The Page-Campbell Cardiology Group.” Dr. Page and his wife, Shelley, set aside funds to endow a Vanderbilt Chair in Interventional Cardiology.
The Page-Campbell Cardiology Group (PCCG) pioneered diversity in Nashville medical practice by hiring André Churchwell, MD, from his faculty position at Emory University in July 1991. From this initial start in diversifying the practice of cardiology in Nashville, the PCCG over subsequent years added Walter Clair, MD, Keith Churchwell, MD, Murali Kolli, MD, and Quinn Capers, MD, to their group. In keeping with the leadership spirit of Dr. Page, these physicians, as well as other PCCG physicians (Mark Glazer, MD, and Robert Hood, MD) currently serve in leadership positions at Vanderbilt University, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Yale University and UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.
“In my career I have encountered a number of great teachers, clinicians and physician-scientists — the whole range of academic phenotypes that we are all familiar with. Harry Page belonged to another phenotype,” said Churchwell, vice chancellor for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer for Vanderbilt University. “That rare and select group — clinicians who possess a deep well of innate creativity, unique humor and calculated risk taking. The Page-Campbell Group may never have come to Vanderbilt without Harry’s persistence and his innate sense it was the right time and the right thing to do. An era has ended with his passing, and we will never see one like him pass this way again — a true right-brain-informing-his-left-brain thinker, always leading with the ‘what if?’”
Dr. Page is survived by his wife of 54 years, Mary Shelley Carter Page; his daughter, Mary Sheridan Page; his son, Harry Lee Page, III; his sister, Sarah Cornwell Page Otten and her husband, Albert Otten, MD, and grandchildren Ian Fatzinger, Owen Fatzinger and Collin Page.