October 15, 1999

Quinn remembered for his blend of humor, compassion and dedication

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Dr. Barney Graham (left) with Academic Medicine Fellows Gary Schoeman and Tonya Hollinger.

Quinn remembered for his blend of humor, compassion and dedication

Dr. Robert W. Quinn, professor of Preventive and Social Medicine, Emeritus, who for 26 years was chairman of the department of Preventive Medicine and Public Health at VUMC, died Monday. He was 87.

Dr. Quinn was a colorful figure in the history of VUMC. He was known for driving around town in a beloved convertible Morgan sports car, playing banjo in a style that made up in enthusiasm what it lacked in musical talent, and demonstrating his considerable skills as a raconteur to all within hearing distance.

He was also known as a dedicated physician who worked at the Metro Health Department for years after his retirement from VUMC, and who passionately pursued his view that issues such as global population growth and nuclear proliferation were public health issues and should be addressed as such.

"He was a Golden Gloves prizefighter in his youth, and feistiness in pursuit of health goals was sometime evident," said Dr. William Schaffner, who succeeded Dr. Quinn as chair of the department now simply known as Preventive Medicine.

"He was internationally recognized for his community-based studies of group A streptococcal infection and the prevention of rheumatic fever."

Dr. Quinn was a native Californian, born in 1912 in Eureka. He graduated from Stanford University in 1933, and earned his M.D. from Montreal's McGill University in 1938.

After his internship and residency years, Dr. Quinn served in the U.S. Navy Medical Corps during World War II, retiring with the rank of captain. After the war he took a fellowship at Yale, which led to a faculty appointment as Instructor at that school in 1947.

After a four-year stint as associate professor at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine, Dr. Quinn came to Vanderbilt in 1952, and held the chairmanship of his department until 1978.

"Dr. Quinn was a significant contributor to the life of the Medical School, to its programs and its people," said Dr. John C. Chapman, Dean of the School of Medicine. "He was a consummate chairman, faculty member, and all-around good fellow."

"Dr. Quinn was a person of vast charm and great good humor whose professional life was dedicated to prevention and the delivery of health in the context of social justice," Schaffner said.

Dr. Quinn is survived by his son, Dr. Robert S. Quinn, clinical instructor in Medicine, a 1980 graduate of VUSM and a practicing internist in Nashville; a daughter-in-law, Kay Quinn; daughter and son-in-law Judy and Kevin O'Reilly of Geneva, Switzerland; seven grandchildren; and a sister, Phyllis Quinn Bauriedel.

His wife, Judy, predeceased him by several years.

Funeral services will be Friday, Oct. 15, at 11 a.m. at Westminster Presbyterian Church. Burial will be private.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Department of Preventive Medicine, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, D-3300 Medical Center North, Nashville, Tenn., 37232.