Remembering Dr Ray W. Gifford, Jr
With the passing of Dr Ray W. Gifford, Jr the medical profession has lost one of its finest. Dr Gifford’s example reflected brilliance, superb clinical judgment, inflexible integrity, uncommon wisdom, total commitment to his patients, and an unparalleled decency of character. Albert Schweitzer said that “example is not the most important thing in influencing others, it is the only thing.” Ray’s example has left an indelible mark on all his friends, colleagues, and those who were fortunate and privileged to know him.
Ray was a powerhouse of energy who contributed enormously to the field of hypertension. Whenever there was controversy on any subject related to clinical hypertension, his opinion almost always prevailed. He was invariably serious when discussing medical problems, and he never dwelled on small talk; however, he never tried to dominate a discussion, and he was never arrogant or concerned with his professional prominence. He loved the medical profession, and he worked extremely hard to improve it by constantly lecturing throughout the United States, contributing extensively to the medical literature (≈560 scientific publications), and by serving so diligently on an infinite number of prestigious boards and committees to promote and extend knowledge about hypertension. After spending several years as a consultant in hypertension at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, he joined the Cleveland Clinic, where he became chair of the Department of Hypertension and Nephrology. For his work in hypertension he received innumerable accolades and was inducted into the Medical Hall of Fame of Cleveland for his outstanding contributions in hypertension.
I had the good fortune of meeting Ray when we were fellows at the Mayo Clinic in the early 1950s. We were both deeply interested in pheochromocytoma, and this led to our close friendship and collaboration for more than 50 years. Together we published many articles, chapters, 2 books on pheochromocytoma, and 1 book on hypertension for the public. In 1977, we founded the National Hypertension Association. Our friendship remained steadfast and was pure delight. I feel blessed for knowing Ray intimately for so many years. I leaned heavily on his keen mind for guidance, because he always seemed to be right! As you can see, I find it difficult to use anything but superlatives when I describe Ray. To me, he was a man for all seasons and the CEO of decency. We all need heroes in our lives, and Ray was one of my heroes. Memories are precious, and I shall forever recall my warm and wonderful friendship with this great physician and very noble human being. We are all the better for having known him. I shall take the liberty of paraphrasing a quote by the British poet Swinburne to express the deep affection and admiration for Dr Gifford which was felt by so many of his friends and colleagues. “Ray, we will love you as long as there is light and in the darkness we shall not forget.”