Robert Alan O'Reilly, M.D.
Mar. 25, 1931-Feb. 18, 2014
Resident Of Los Gatos
"Better pass boldly into that other world, in the full glory of some passion, than fade and wither dismally with age." James Joyce, The Dead
On February 18, Dr. Robert Alan O'Reilly (Bob) boldly passed into that other world, from congestive heart failure, armed with his usual courage and imagination. Like his literary heroes James Joyce and Lawrence Durrell, he dedicated his life to tackling big, complex questions surrounding the human condition. He leaves behind a treasure trove of academic medical research in hematology and the sharp skills of three generations of physicians who trained under his tutelage as Chief of Medicine at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center (SCVMC) from 1962 – 1998.
Bob was born in Chicago and raised in Alhambra, CA, where he was student body president of Alhambra High School, graduating in 1948. He told his four children that he learned his most important life lesson from Mrs. Percy Bowater, who conducted his busboy training in her English tearoom in Pasadena: "Robert, perfection requires relentless practice!" After attending four years at Stanford University he received his M.D. in 1955 at the University of California School of Medicine, San Francisco. He interned at San Francisco General Hospital and did his residency at UCSF in Internal Medicine. He specialized in hematology starting in 1960 and with his mentor Dr. Paul Aggeler, discovered and studied a family that was resistant to a leading anticoagulant drug, warfarin, that led to several breakthrough discoveries and improved treatment for several blood diseases as well as the proper use of the drug.
Nearly his entire career was devoted to improving the training of young physicians at SCVMC, through devising high-quality integrated programs with both UCSF and Stanford University School of Medicine and expanding the opportunities for interns and residents to learn from treating patients and from physician faculty he had recruited to SCVMC staff as Medicine Department Chair. He was clinical professor of medicine at UCSF and professor of medicine at Stanford University. It was fitting that as he met the end of his life, Drs. Kurt Bausback and Ronald Rossen, two wonderful physicians at Good Samaritan Hospital, who had trained at SCVMC, attended him, along with the Cardiac ICU nursing team and staff.
A passionate scientist, Bob weekly spent countless hours conducting research in his lab at the California Institute for Medical Research (CIMR), collaborating with many distinguished hematologists and research asst. Kate Motley, now of Palm Desert, authoring more than 81 original scientific research papers in leading medical journals on the pharmacology of anti-coagulant drugs such as warfarin, and the safe use of these drugs. He also wrote numerous reviews, book chapters, and abstracts. He played an important role in both the birth and growth of CIMR, and held important offices in its governance. Bob was president of the California Academy of Medicine in 1982 and an active member in many medical associations and organizations. The Santa Clara County Medical Association awarded him its Outstanding Achievement in Medicine Award.
Bob's second great passion was studying and enjoying wine and its relationship to food. He was a proud participant in The Society of Medical Friends of Wine (The Society), where he was President in 1977 and served many years on its board of governors. He dined with the Society at a magnificent dinner paired with California wines in San Francisco just 3 weeks before his death and delivered a tribute to the Society's Founder, Dr. Leon Adams. Bob even wrote several scientific research papers on the effects of wine and anticoagulant drug therapy. He and his wife Virginia journeyed with the Society, exploring wines from Hungary, Romania, France and Italy. Every year he held a party at his home for the SCVMC House Staff, including a blind tasting of both wine and cheese. By the time they were of legal drinking age, his children could easily distinguish California Cabs from French Bordeaux, learned at many blind tastings at the family table!
Bob married Los Gatos native and UC Berkeley Registered Nursing student Carol Olsen after they both graduated in 1955 and they raised four children in Los Gatos. Carol, a devoted mother and avid violinist, died of breast cancer
in 1972, and Bob married violinist Virginia Ellis in 1973. Bob is survived by Virginia, his children Stephen O'Reilly, Megan O'Reilly-Lewis (Todd Lewis), Alan O'Reilly; his grandchildren Erin O'Reilly, Owen Lewis, Siobhan O'Reilly, and Philip Lewis. His son, Daniel O'Reilly (Patty), predeceased him in 2004.
A private memorial service was held on March 9, 2014 at the family home. In honor of Bob's years of research and public service the CIMR created the Robert O'Reilly Memorial Research Fund to support the research of the SCVMC-based physicians. Contributions can be sent to the Robert O'Reilly Memorial Research Fund 2260 Clove Drive, San Jose, CA 95128.