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James K. Alexander M.D.

Obituary Condolences

JAMES K. ALEXANDER, M.D. died on Sunday, the 29th of March 2009, at his home in Houston, at the age of 88. Dr. Alexander, Professor Emeritus of Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, was born December 25, 1920 in Evanston, Illinois. Dr. Alexander was an outstanding academic physician, who performed innovative research, introduced new procedures and technological advances into the practice of clinical medicine and excelled as a teacher. He earned degrees at Amherst College and at Harvard Medical School and later fulfilled a 2-year military commitment in the U.S. Army, traveling to Guam and Japan. He received his earliest clinical training at Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan, under the mentorship of Dr. Andrew Cournand, a Nobel Laureate. He was then awarded a research fellowship with Dr. Landis at Harvard and later trained at Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan under another Nobel Laureate, Dr. Dickenson W. Richards. In 1954 Dr. Alexander joined the faculty of Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, where he served until 2007. During his tenure at Baylor he introduced selective coronary angiography, then a new technique, into his laboratory and mastered the study of heart hemodynamics. He later incorporated and developed ultrasound techniques and used echocardiography to study the function of the heart and blood circulation. Among his many research interests, cardiac disease in obese patients and high-altitude medicine led the list. During his years at Baylor Dr. Alexander served as Chief of Cardiology at Baylor, at Ben Taub Hospital and at the Veterans Administration Medical Center, where he tirelessly performed clinical and teaching duties. His professional and hospital appointments, his medical society memberships, his scientific papers, review articles and books were numerous and far reaching. He is especially remembered as a great diagnostician and teacher, who exemplified compassion, skill, integrity, curiosity and grace, extending his legacy of clinical excellence through his students. Dr. Alexander's pastimes included chamber music, jogging, cycling, mountain climbing, hiking in wilderness areas, and his special passion: fly fishing. He served several terms on the Board of the Houston Friends of Music and also enjoyed performances of the Houston Symphony for many years. As an Eagle Scout, he had camped on the Mall in Washington D.C. to celebrate scouting's 1937 Jamboree. Dr. Alexander's epitaph, describing the ideal aim of every physician, is a quote from the memorial statue of Dr. E.L. Trudeau and will live on with the many students whose lives and professions have been so enriched by his teachings: "Guerir quelquefois, soulanger souvent, consoler toujours", "Cure occasionally, relieve often, console always". Preceded in death by his first wife, Mary Lou "Sissy" Alexander; his parents Roy and Exie Alexander; and his sister Mary A. Reppert, he is survived by his wife of 31 years, Carolyn Barr Alexander; his daughters Susan H. Alexander, and Joan A. Heftye and her husband Wayne; his son, James K. Alexander, Jr. and his wife Michele; his grandchildren, Andie Marie and Austin James; his brother, Dr. Roy Alexander and his wife Nancy; eight nieces and nephews, and his beloved dog, Belle. Friends are cordially invited to a visitation with the family from six until nine o'clock in the evening on Friday, the 3rd of April, in the Jasek Chapel of George H. Lewis & Sons Funeral Home, 1010 Bering Drive in Houston. Following a private family graveside service at Woodlawn Garden of Memories Cemetery, 1001 Antoine Drive, a memorial service will be conducted at two o'clock in the afternoon on Saturday, the 4th of April, at St. Luke's United Methodist Church, 3471 Westheimer Road in Houston, officiated by Dr. Tom Pace, Senior Pastor. Immediately following the memorial service, all are invited to join the family for a reception to be held in the adjacent Fellowship Hall. A second memorial service will be conducted at eleven o'clock in the morning on Saturday, the 18th of April, at Escude Funeral Home, on Old LA1 in Simmesport (Avoyelles Parish), Louisiana, 71369. In lieu of usual remembrances, the family requests with gratitude that contributions in memory of Dr. Alexander be directed to the Methodist De Bakey Heart and Vascular Center for Research at P.O. Box 4384, Houston, TX, 77210-4384; the J.K.A Visiting Professor, Attn: Donor Stewardship, or to the Annual J.K.A Student Research Symposium, c/o Public Affairs at B.C.M., at Baylor Plaza, B.C.M. 160, Houston, TX 77030.

Published in Houston Chronicle from Mar. 30 to Apr. 1, 2009
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