W. Proctor Harvey, MD
Article first published online: 14 FEB 2008
2008 by Le Jacq
American Heart Hospital Journal
Volume 6, Issue 1, pages 12–13, Winter 2008
How to Cite
Chizner, M. A. (2008), W. Proctor Harvey, MD. American Heart Hospital Journal, 6: 12–13. doi: 10.1111/j.1751-7168.2008.07856.x
- Issue published online: 14 FEB 2008
- Article first published online: 14 FEB 2008
Once in a lifetime, there comes an individual who leaves an indelible mark in his field. Such a man was Dr Watkins Proctor Harvey, world-renowned cardiologist, professor of medicine, and former director and founder of the Division of Cardiology at Georgetown University School of Medicine in Washington, DC. In dedicating his life to the teaching and practice of clinical cardiology, Dr Harvey stimulated and nurtured generations of medical students, physicians, and other health care professionals. Sadly, on September 26, 2007, the world of medicine lost, at the age of 89, this much-beloved and highly respected master clinician-teacher, known affectionately to his students and trainees as “Proc.”
As one of the world's foremost cardiac clinicians and medical educators, Dr Harvey stressed the importance of his now famous “5-finger approach” to cardiovascular disease, which includes a careful, detailed history, physical examination, electrocardiography, chest radiography, and appropriate laboratory tests. He taught and demonstrated on a daily basis that with the intelligent use of one's senses and a stethoscope, the well-trained clinician can make a rapid and accurate diagnosis, often without recourse to more costly, time-consuming, and potentially risky “high-tech” investigative methods. Indeed, Dr Harvey's unique genius was his remarkable ability to arrive at the most sophisticated cardiovascular diagnoses from the mere basics of clinical examination skills. Using his teaching conferences on clinical heart disease and cardiac auscultation as the theater; the bedside as his stage setting; patients as the actors; his triple-headed (Harvey) stethoscope as the instrument; the sounds and murmurs of the heart, which he masterfully mimicked with his voice and his hands, as the music; and his pearls of practical clinical wisdom as the lyrics, Dr Harvey elevated the teaching and practice of clinical cardiology to an art form. The art of cardiac auscultation as we know it today is virtually synonymous with the name W. Proctor Harvey.
Dr Harvey's profound literary talent was evident in his writing and editing of books, most notably the classic texts Cardiac Pearls and Clinical Auscultation of the Heart (which he coauthored with his mentor, the legendary cardiologist Dr Samuel A. Levine) and journals, including Current Problems in Cardiology and the annual publication Year Book of Cardiology, that helped set the standard for quality cardiovascular education and further wove his teachings into the fabric of American cardiology.
In recognition of his outstanding efforts to champion the teaching and refinement of the art of clinical cardiology and his exemplary leadership skills in developing the cardiology fellowship program at Georgetown University into one of the most renowned training programs in the world, Dr Harvey received such prestigious honors and awards as the Gold Heart and Herrick awards of the American Heart Association, the Gifted Teacher Award and Mastership of the American College of Cardiology, the Distinguished Teacher Award and Mastership of the American College of Physicians, the Distinguished Clinical Teacher Award of the Alpha Omega Alpha National Medical Honor Society, and the Distinguished Service Award of the World Congress of Cardiology and was elected by his peers as president of the American Heart Association and the Association of University Cardiologists. Although honors and awards for his outstanding lifetime achievements came his way in abundance, perhaps Dr Harvey's greatest reward was the affection, admiration, and esteem of his former students and trainees, many of whom now occupy prominent positions of leadership in cardiovascular medicine throughout the United States and abroad and have made major contributions to cardiovascular research and medical education.
For those of us fortunate enough to have known him well, Dr Harvey will always be thought of as a truly gifted and giving human being whose kindness, warmth, integrity, humility, wit, humor, compassion, caring, empathy, and humane concern for patients, colleagues, family, and friends endeared him to all those with whom he came in contact. From the passion for cardiology that he instilled in us springs the inspiration to pass along his rich legacy and to carry on the teaching tradition that is his. If we can keep the flame of his inspiration alive and burning, we will, in some small measure, repay our debt to him.