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Darwin L. Palmer

1930 - 2016 Obituary Condolences
Darwin L. Palmer Obituary
Palmer, Darwin L., Dr.

Dr. Darwin L. Palmer, age 85, died peacefully April 24, 2016 at the Retreat Gardens after a battling the many physical challenges of aging, including respiratory problems. Darwin was born on December 20, 1930 in Long Beach, CA to Dewey H. Palmer, a physicist and co-founder of The Consumer Union, and Rachel L. Lynn, an author of several books on consumer issues and women's reproductive health, including 40,000,000 Guinea Pig Children. Darwin spent his childhood in the greater New York City area, living for many years in Leonia, NJ along with his sister Patricia. Darwin's many adventures as a child and young man are emblematic of his lifelong style of adventure and willingness to challenge rules, such as the time he and his childhood friend Ed Proli bought and kept of a horse without his parents knowing.

Darwin attended Oberlin College in Ohio, graduating in 1953, where he enjoyed many diverse friendships. He was passionately involved in the U.S. civil rights movement and other political issues while at Oberlin and loved the college's vibrant music scene, befriending several classmates who eventually became well-known musicians. After college, he briefly considered a career in psychology, completing an MA at Columbia University in experimental psychology in 1954. He was drafted during the Korean war and served in the United States Army, but did not see combat and was stationed for most his service at Fort Ord, CA where he helped the Army to conduct psychological studies to understand characteristics of successful soldiers.

After the Army, Darwin returned to pursue his lifelong dream of becoming a doctor, completing an MD at the NYU School of Medicine with financial support from the GI Bill. Darwin recalled with great satisfaction his experience and training at NYU, including his work at Bellevue hospital as a medial student. Darwin completed his medical Internship (1961), Residency (1964), and NIH Postdoctoral Fellowship in Infectious Disease (1966), all at the University of Colorado Medical Center. While in CO, Darwin joined the ski patrol and was an avid hiker, occasional hunter, and skilled fisherman, falling in love with the natural beauty and cultural charms of the Southwestern United States where he chose to spend the rest of his life.

After completing his medical training, Darwin moved to Albuquerque, NM where he became a Professor at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine and a physician at the Veterans Administration Medical Center. He published numerous medical articles and served for many years as Chief of Infectious Disease at the Albuquerque VA Medical Center. Among other things, he was an international expert on the plague, writing the chapter on the plague in Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine.

Throughout his life Darwin was passionate about the goal of universal medical care and was involved politically and personally on issues of extending care to those who could not afford medical care. He worked at a La Clinica in Tierra Amarilla, NM where he once successfully delivered a healthy baby using welding oxygen as an improvised solution when no medical oxygen was available. He moved with his wife Carolyn and young children to Dacca, Bangladesh for a year (1974-75), where he was a Visiting Associate Professor for John Hopkins University Medical School and was part of an international team battling cholera and smallpox epidemics. As part of the Bangladesh year, he traveled with his family on an around the globe trip that included hiking the Himalayas, staying on a houseboat in Katmandu, visiting India, Afghanistan, Moscow, various European countries, and Japan. He was elected as the Governor for the NM chapter of the American College of Physicians (1987-91), where he worked to advance goals of universal healthcare at a national level. He also served on a panel advising NM Governor Bill Richardson on health policy issues. After retiring, Darwin moved for two years to Zimbabwe where he taught medicine, researched drug resistant Tuberculosis on a Fulbright grant, and explored Africa's amazing natural and cultural beauty.

Darwin was a deeply genuine, honest, open, and caring man who loved life and people and had a deep sense of adventure and believed in living life to the utmost. He loved spending time in the outdoors, with many outdoor adventures with his children and with his sister Patricia and her husband Dave Herrick and their children Avery, Lief, Gwen and Rachel who lived in Oregon. With the help of Dave, his children and friends from Chama, he moved and rebuilt an old log cabin on family land by the Brazos river in the mountains near Tierra Amarilla - with the cabin the a key legacy of Darwin's and the center of many fun gatherings of family and friends. Darwin was passionate about spending time in the Rio Grande bosque, and preserving and protecting many natural sites around New Mexico.

Darwin was passionate about politics and policy issues, including civil rights, affordable healthcare and respect for nature and the environment and was a member of the Albuquerque chapter of the Council of Foreign Relations. He was a believer in a broad education and was a voracious reader of literature (including a good share of detective novels), anthropology, history, ethics and scientific topics. He was passionate about art and music, collecting a diverse array of art from around the world and attending the New Mexico Symphony regularly even into his old age as long as he could do so physically.

Darwin's met and married his second wife Carolyn Palmer, a social worker, while a medical student in NY, with whom he had and raised his two son's Damon and Michael over the course of a marriage that lasted for two decades. Darwin will be missed dearly and is survived by his two sons Damon and Michael; his daughter-in-law Aurora; his grandchildren Alexander, Roderick, and Sarah; and his nieces and nephews Avery, Lief, and Rachel.

A memorial service will be held at the Albuquerque Museum on Tuesday, May 3 at 3:00pm. The family requests in lieu of flowers that donations be sent in Darwin's name to either La Clinica del Pueblo de Rio Arriba, New Mexico (575-588-7252) or to Doctors Without Borders.
Published in Albuquerque Journal from Apr. 29 to May 1, 2016
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