Pioneer in Care of Premature Babies Dies


Dr Jerold F Lucey, an American pioneer in paediatrics who championed innovations that improved the survival and health of premature babies, died last month at his home in Florida. He was 91.


Dr Lucey, who spent most of his career at the University of Vermont College of Medicine in Burlington, spearheaded the introduction of new treatments for fragile newborns. He also energised the field of paediatrics by encouraging national and international collaborations and emphasising that procedures had to be backed by documented evidence of their effectiveness.


In the 1960s, he conducted a randomised trial of light therapy to treat jaundice in premature babies, leading to the wide adoption of the technique. A light therapy chamber he constructed was displayed at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington.


Dr Lucey was also influential in the introduction of other important neonatal therapies, including using surfactant, which coats the air sacs, to help the struggling lungs of premature babies; cooling the brains of babies to prevent damage from asphyxiation; and monitoring babies’ oxygen levels through the skin, rather than through blood drawn repeatedly from arteries.


Dr Lucey was also editor in chief of the journal Pediatrics for 35 years. “I don’t think there’s a paediatrician who doesn’t realize that some aspect of their career is because of a contribution that Jerry Lucey made,” said Dr Lewis R First, current editor in chief of the journal.


Colleagues said Dr Lucey had been a generous mentor. “Here you had this international champion for infants and children,” Dr First said, “and yet when you called Jerry Lucey, he answered the phone himself, his door was always open, and he loved to sit down and talk to anyone about anything.”

The New York Times. December 27.

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