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My Tribute to Dr. Lemuel Julian Haywood

Last week, COVID-19 robbed the world of another giant, true world changer. He was Professor Emeritus of Medicine at the University of Southern California who published over 600 scientific articles over his lifetime related to pioneering work in high blood pressure, cardiac arrhythmias, sickle cell disease, and computer applications in cardiology. He was the first black cardiologist appointed a full professor of medicine at a majority institution.

You may recall that in the old days, patients who were critically ill would require a nurse sitting at the patient's bedside (24/7) and constantly monitoring blood pressure, pulse, heart rhythm, and breathing regularity. Dr. Haywood made it possible to monitor patients from the nurse's station and the intensive care unit (ICU) was born. The concept has since been adopted in every hospital in the entire world. In 1969, it was described as the first computerized system for real-time heart arrhythmia detection.

He was Born in Reidsville, N.C. in 1927. His father was a physician and his mother a teacher. He served in the Army and at the end of the war earned a B.A. in biology from Hampton University School of Medicine in 1952. After a two-year fellowship in cardiology at White Memorial Hospital in Los Angeles, he returned to the county hospital as a member of the Loma Linda University faculty. In 1963, he was a traveling fellow at Oxford University, under Regius Professor Sir George Pickering. The Coronary Care Unit at the Los Angeles County Hospital-USC Medical Center, which he established in 1966 was renamed "The L. Julian Haywood Coronary Care Unit" in 2016.

I knew Dr. Haywood for 40 years, always the gracious hosts and inspiring friend. In 2018, when I received the "Lifetime Achievement Award" from the Association of Black Cardiologists (ABC), he not only attended but was generous with his praise for my accomplishments as the CEO of the ABC for over 20 years. He also reminded my son (who was inspired to become a physician) about their game of chess when we were guests at his home in Los Angeles when Aleron was a high school student.

With all his accomplishments, Dr. Haywood was a humble man who was always at the ready to give advice to cardiologists in training as well as anyone else who sought him out. And what a generous soul! I don't believe he ever said no to any request for financial assistance from family, charities, church, friends, and educational institutions. He even paid the full cost of a city park in the town of Warrenton, N.C. as a memorial to his parents in 2018.

When we were traveling to Australia about 10 years ago, we met with some Aboriginal men and I inquired about their ambitions. One gentleman replied that their goal was to sit down happy. Whether it was the end of a job, a project, a day, a year or a lifetime, they do what they do because they are motivated to sit down happy with pride in what they accomplished. Dr. Haywood, you can sit down happy.


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