August 14, 1998

Creech devoted life to caring for others

Creech devoted life to caring for others

John A. Creech, longtime social worker in Vanderbilt University Medical Center's Emergency Department, was killed earlier this month in an automobile accident. He was 61.

His compassion and kindness to patients and families in the Emergency Department, where stress, trauma, grief and uncertainty are daily facts of life, was commendable, friends and colleagues said.

"Johnny was a person who was always giving, never taking. He was always available," said Dr. Corey M. Slovis, professor of chair of Emergency Medicine. "No matter what the situation he was dealing with ‹ whether it was a homeless person, someone who was intoxicated or a family dealing with a horrible loss ‹ he was always perfect. Always. He was always positive and he seemed to always know the right things to do and say."

In appearance, with his white hair and beard, Mr. Creech reminded many of Santa Claus. And in many ways he exemplified that mythic gift-giver's best qualities, Slovis said.

"Look at the hours he worked ‹ two, three, four o'clock in the morning ‹ the times when he felt he would be most needed," Slovis said.

"My first and last images of Johnny are the same: I'd come in at 11 at night, the ER would be swarming ‹ ambulances outside, police officers and EMTs moving in and out ‹ and there, in that sea of confusion and tension, would be Johnny, calmly dealing with somebody's problems.

"That's the saddest part. The medical and nursing problems we can handle; there's no place better than Vanderbilt for that. But when it came to working through some of the social problems, such as finding shelter for a homeless person or dealing with a family situation, Johnny would handle that.

"It truly is a loss for Vanderbilt because Johnny gave patients a great many things that we, the doctors and nurses, couldn't give them," Slovis said.

Mr. Creech was educated at the Abilene Christian University and the University of Tennessee. Prior to coming to Vanderbilt, he spent many years assisting students through the substance abuse program in Gainesville, Fla., and formerly taught in the Social Work Department at David Lipscomb University.

Mr. Creech is survived by his sister, Jacque Parkinson; brother, James Creech; one niece; three nephews; three great nieces and three great nephews.