Ben Charles Corballis, B.S., MB, B.Ch., BAQ (MD), FACEP
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AGE: 85 • Wilmington
Passed away peacefully in his home at sunrise on Sunday, December 15, 2013.
He was born Ronald Charles Corbalis on October 24th, 1928 in the Sacred Heart parish of Yonkers New York - a then thriving Irish conclave. His father Dr. Charles Corbalis was a prominent dentist and his mother Anne Sullivan Corbalis was a Navy WAVE during WWII. The name change to Corballis was the result of his passion for family history and to correct an error made upon his ancestor's arrival in New York.
He was an avid athlete enjoying football, basketball and swimming but his real passion was baseball. He played for Manhattan College where he was graduated in 1950. When a game injury shut the door to his plans to enter the minor leagues and play professionally, the window to his medical career opened.
As a result of his devotion to the local Catholic Church and its close ties to the church in Ireland, he was able to secure a late entry to the University College of Galway, National University of Ireland Medical School and was graduated in 1955. The details of his acceptance at Galway were among his favorite stories and in a fitting sequel his grandson will be graduated there as a doctor in June. During summers at home he worked as a longshoreman unloading cane sugar at the local docks.
Upon his return to America, he served his internship at Stamford Hospital from 1955 to 1956. After assisting with his first procedure, he returned home to announce to his wife "I am a surgeon, so let's take out the book and find a residency program." He moved to Wilmington and completed his surgical residency at Memorial Hospital from 1956-60, living not one hundred yards from the hospital on Lovering Avenue.
He ran a general and vascular surgery practice from 1960-72 and purchased the family home in Wawaset Park in 1963. It was to become the nexus for the east coast Corballis extended family and Hayes godchildren over the years and during the final chapter of his life.
He deeply believed God opens windows and his next major window to open was Emergency Medicine. In 1969, he and a close group of colleagues pioneered a new concept in treatment with the formation of Doctors for Emergency Services (DFES). Later, he founded two other local emergency medicine groups as well, DELMAR Emergency Services (DMES) and Sussex Emergency Associates (SEA) in a model which would soon spread nation-wide. His core conviction was that doctors should be of and among the people, with modest salaries, and that emergency care should be affordable; skillful business practices should fund advancements in care while driving patient costs down. He was DFES and DMES's founding President and was subsequently appointed Chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine for Christiana Care Health System until his retirement in 1995. He was awarded a Fellowship in the American College of Emergency Physicians in 2007, founding the Delaware chapter. He was one of the few founding fathers of the American College of Emergency Medicine and the only one so named from Delaware. He was also appointed Clinical Assistant Professor of Surgery, specializing in Emergency Medicine at Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia.
His passion for quality of care advancement continued as he looked out over the broader network of the emergency care delivery process. He aggressively campaigned at the gubernatorial and Congressional level for the creation of a formal paramedic profession and advanced life support training program in Delaware linked to his emergency rooms. He fought through strong grass-roots opposition to bring a 9-1-1 emergency medical services system to Delaware and he worked to gain acceptance of emergency medicine as a formal specialty with its own residency program. Not shy of controversy, he founded the Delaware Political Action Committee (DELPAC), a non-partisan group to enable doctors to provide input on medical legislation. To increase service and reduce costs to patients, he founded Wilmington Professional Associates (PA), a medical billing company, in 1971. He played a key role in bringing the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) program to Delaware. In response to the growing cost of malpractice insurance, his capstone project was the founding in 1990 of a doctor-managed insurance company, Delaware Physician's Insurance Purchasing Group (DELPRO). He was President of DELPRO through 2013 and continued to actively manage cases.
Dr. Corballis was a member of many medical societies, serving in a leadership capacity in several. The societies include the Medical Society of Delaware, the Medical Liability Committee, the Medical Economics Committee, the House of Delegates Medico-Legal Committee, Medical Society of Delaware Insurance Services Inc. (founder), New Castle County Medical Society, Professional Conduct Committee, and the American College of Emergency Physicians. In 1972 he was appointed by the Governor to the Governor's Emergency Medical Services (GEMSAC), serving as counsel in many aspects overseeing service including 9-1-1 emergency telephone access and EMT and paramedic training programs. It was during this appointment that he became the Delaware Representative of Mid-Atlantic EMS services until 1993.
Dr. Corballis also served as a member of the board of directors for many businesses. Those businesses include Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Delaware, where he served as Chairman on several committees and currently as Chairman of the Board; Newark Emergency Center, Inc.; Community Health Assurance Program Inc.; American College of Physicians Executives; and the Irish American Pediatric Society
He was a prolific writer, whether scholarly publications, topical editorials, or legislative correspondence. He was the reviewer of Articles for Patient Care Magazine between 1984 and 1992.He was not camera shy and could be seen on television broadcasts discussing everything from medicine to Irish history.
His awards included the National Blue Shield Association, Outstanding Service Award, Medical Society of Delaware (Doctor of the Year), the State of Delaware declaration by the Governor designating May 2, 1993 as "Ben Corballis Day", Delaware State Ambulance Association Honorary Membership and the CCHS Commendation for Excellence in 2004. He received a County Executive Tribute at the 25th anniversary celebration of the New Castle County Paramedics in 2000.
In addition to being a friend to his many physician colleagues across all specialties, Dr. Corballis held a special place in his heart for the many nurses with whom he worked in both surgery and emergency medicine. This also extended later in his career to the use of physician assistants in Delaware's Emergency Departments. All of these fellow professionals returned his affection for them on many occasions. His children found the devotion and kindness of the nursing staff that cared for him round-the-clock over the last several months to be overwhelming and of tremendous comfort.
In addition to his professional work, he was a member and communicant at St. Anthony of Padua Church, and a member of the Irish Culture Club of Delaware and the Irish American Cultural Institute.
He was preceded in death by wives Patricia and Marie Joan and his siblings Leo, Paul, and Claire.
He is survived by children Liam Corballis and his wife, Claudia, and their daughters Colleen and Rachel; Christopher Corballis, and his daughter, Kristian, and her son Jason; Susan Donovan and her husband, Jim, and their sons James and his wife Lauren, and Sean; Eilis Corballis Rodriquez and her children, Luis, Caitlin, Christian, and Madison, as well as his little shadow "Dot".
In the article Ben Corballis, Emergency Medicine Pioneer he is quoted as saying "In the end, the only satisfaction you will ever have is the knowledge that you accomplished what you set out to do. There will be no statues of me, my name won't be on any plaques or anything, but I'll be sitting back, sipping a vodka tonic, knowing that I helped build a specialty, and that I was a leader in creating the EMS and 911 systems in Delaware. I know I made a difference, the trip was worth it. There is nothing else in the end when it comes down to it but your own personal satisfaction. And if you can have that, that's what makes all this so much fun."
Friends and family are invited to visitation on December 19th between 6 and 8 PM at Mealey Funeral Home, 2509 Limestone Road, Wilmington DE, 19808. Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Friday morning at 10:30 AM at St. Anthony of Padua Church, 9th and DuPont Streets, Wilmington. Entombment will follow at Cathedral Cemetery, Wilmington.
In lieu of flowers, Dr. Ben requested that contributions be made to the Corballis Emergency Medicine Research Fund, PO Box 7529, Newark DE 19714-7529. MealeyFuneralHomes.com (302) 652-5913
Published in The News Journal from Dec. 17 to Dec. 19, 2013