Dr. Ward Casscells, 60, a cardiologist who served with the Army in Iraq and later was Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, died October 14, 2012, in Washington, D.C., of complications of prostate cancer.
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He was the John E. Tyson Distinguished Professor of Medicine and Public Health at the University of Texas Health Science Center-Houston and simultaneously was its vice president for External Affairs and Public Policy. He was also a senior scholar at the Texas Heart Institute in Houston.
Dr. Casscells was born March 18, 1952, in Wilmington, Delaware. Named Samuel Ward Casscells III for his father and grandfather, he was familiarly known as Trip. His father, who died in 1996, was a prominent orthopaedic surgeon who pioneered arthroscopic surgery.
Dr. Casscells graduated from Tower Hill School in 1970, Yale College in 1974 and from Harvard Medical School (magna cum laude) in 1979. He trained in medicine and cardiology at Beth Israel, Brigham and Women's, and Massachusetts General hospitals, the Harvard School of Public Health, the National Institutes of Health, and Scripps Research Institute.
In 2006, at 54, he received an age waiver to be commissioned a colonel in the Army Reserve. He then deployed to Iraq, where he was medical liaison to then-Commanding General George Casey and US Amb. Zalmay Khalilzad. This service earned him the Joint Commendation Medal and honorary membership in the Iraqi Medical Regiment.
In 2007, President George W. Bush appointed Dr. Casscells to be assistant secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, in which he served through the start of the Obama Administration in 2009. As assistant secretary, Dr. Casscells led a $45 billion health and education system with 137,000 employees, 10 million patients in 900 clinics and hospitals in 100 countries. He was credited with restoring trust in the quality of care at US military facilities.
In recognition of his work at the Pentagon, Dr Casscells received the Department of Defense's highest civilian award, the Distinguished Public Service Medal, as well as the Army's decoration for Distinguished Civilian Service, the Army's Order of Military Medical Merit, and the General Maxwell Thurman Award. In addition, he received the Department of Veterans' Affairs Commendation, the Surgeon General's Medallion from the Department of Health and Human Services, the HHS Best Public Health Practice Award, the Memorial Hermann Health System's Hero Award, the 2010 Pike Humanitarian Prize, and the 2012 Lifetime Achievement Award in the Life Sciences from the Houston Technology Center.
A former associate editor of Circulation and guest editor of The Lancet, Dr. Casscells was widely published in the areas of prevention of heart attack and stroke, information technology, medical ethics, influenza, disaster preparedness, health diplomacy, nanotechnology, and healthcare management. He spoke publicly about living with cancer. His book, When It Mattered Most, a tribute to medics killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, was published in 2009.
Dr Casscells served on numerous civic, corporate, and professional boards, including the Prostate Cancer Foundation, American Telemedicine Association, AMAR Foundation, Safe America, and the Critical Incident Analysis Group. He was also an elected member of several honorary societies.
He is survived by his wife, Roxanne Bell Casscells of Washington, DC; children, Samuel W. Casscells IV, Henry Wendell Casscells, and Lillian Bell Casscells, all of Washington; brother, Dr. Christopher D. Casscells and his wife Susan, of Wilmington, Delaware; sister, R.E. Anne Casscells and her partner Susan Ketchum, of San Mateo, California; sister, Margaret Casscells-Hamby and her husband Frank Casscells-Hamby, of Orlando, Florida; and six nieces and nephews.
Services are at the Washington National Cathedral on November 16, 2012 at 11:00.
Donations in lieu of flowers, are requested for Prostate Cancer Research Fund at M.D. Anderson, Helping a Hero (www.helpingahero.org) or The S. Ward Casscells Professorship at UVA (www.uvamedalum.org/make-a-gift specify "Casscells Professorship").
Published in The News Journal on Nov. 14, 2012