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1931 - 2019
Dr. James L. Talbert, surgeon, visionary, beloved husband and father, passed away Monday, July 1, 2019, at Haven Hospice in Gainesville, Florida. He was born September 26, 1931, in Cassville, Missouri to William David and Frances Lewis Talbert. An Eagle Scout, he graduated from high school in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, where his father was the president of a local bank.
Dr. Talbert completed his undergraduate studies at Vanderbilt University in 1953. He was named to the Phi Beta Kappa honor society and selected as captain of the men's swim team. Dr. Talbert earned his MD degree from Vanderbilt's School of Medicine in 1956. He received the Founder's Medal for finishing first in his medical school class and named to the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society.
Dr. Talbert's postgraduate medical training was at Johns Hopkins Hospital as a Halsted resident in Surgery, Harvey Cushing Fellow in Surgery, and as its first Pediatric Surgery resident. He was mentored by Drs. Alfred Blalock, David C. Sabiston and J. Alex Haller Jr., at Johns Hopkins. While he was receiving his postgraduate medical training, Dr. Talbert was appointed as a Lieutenant in the United States Public Health Service and selected to serve as a Senior Assistant Surgeon at the National Heart Institute, National Institutes of Health, in Bethesda, Maryland.
He met his wife, Alice Quintavell, a cardiac surgery intensive care nurse at Johns Hopkins in 1956. They married in 1958. After his marriage to Alice and the birth of their two children, he was appointed as an Instructor in Surgery and Garrett Scholar in Pediatric Surgery and an Assistant Professor of Surgery and Pediatric Surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
In 1967, Dr. Talbert became the first pediatric surgeon to be recruited by the Department of Surgery at the University of Florida College of Medicine and was appointed as its Chief of Pediatric Surgery. He remained the Chief of Pediatric Surgery from 1967 until 1998. In 1998, Dr. Talbert retired and became Professor Emeritus with the Department of Surgery at the University of Florida College of Medicine. The James Lewis Talbert Lectureship was established by the Division of Pediatric Surgery at the time of his retirement.
Dr. Talbert, along with Dr. Shirley A. Graves, MD, designed the first Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) at Shands Teaching Hospital in 1967. It was among the first PICU's in the country. The current PICU which opened in 2002 was named the Shirley A. Graves, MD, and James L. Talbert, MD, Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Shands Children's Hospital in their honor. Dr. Talbert also helped develop the Neonatal Flight Team in 1981 for the air transport of premature infants from across the state of Florida to Shands Teaching Hospital which evolved into 'ShandsCair' providing emergency helicopter and air transport for patients in need of critical care. He was actively involved in the establishment of Emergency Medical Services in Alachua County and served as Chairman of the Emergency Medical Services Advisory Council.
Dr. Talbert was a member of virtually every major organization committed to excellence in surgery including the American College of Surgeons serving on its Board of Governors and the Halsted Society serving as its Chairman. He was also a founding member of the American Pediatric Surgical Association. Dr. Talbert was a prolific writer and published more than 100 scholarly papers and book chapters and authored or co-authored several books including The Child in the Hospital in 1967 and Surgical Emergencies in the Newborn in 1972. He was an innovator of numerous surgical techniques for children during his tenure at the University of Florida College of Medicine including the repair of congenital airway lesions. In 2009, Dr. Talbert was awarded the University of Florida College of Medicine's Lifetime Achievement Award.
Dr. Talbert had a passion for teaching and training. Many of the physicians that he mentored have gone on to be major leaders in pediatric surgery around the world. The physicians mentored by Dr. Talbert have created a 'living legacy' which he always viewed as one of his most important accomplishments. His legacy teaching and training recently earned him the Arnold M. Salzberg Mentorship Award from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
In addition to his passion for teaching and training, Dr. Talbert worked as an ardent advocate for improving funding for children with cancer through the Children's Medical Services program administered by the state of Florida. He had a vision for improving the quality of care for children with cancer. In 1970, this vision helped form the Florida Association of Pediatric Tumor Programs (FAPTP) where he served as President of the program. The tireless efforts of Dr. Talbert and the FAPTP Executive Director and its staff led to hospitals and clinics across the state of Florida carrying on Dr. Talbert's vision for improving the quality of care for Florida's children with cancer by establishing a unique statewide pediatric cancer registry and extensive research funded in part through the National Institutes of Health.
Dr. Talbert is survived by his wife of over sixty years, Alice; son, William David Talbert II; daughter, Alison Whitney Talbert; and granddaughters, Olivia Grace and Adriana Elizabeth Talbert. He is also survived by countless friends, many of whom he considered family.
The Talbert family would like to thank UF Health Shands Hospital and the wonderful physicians, including Dr. Bradley S. Fletcher and Dr. Jeffrey T. Budd, and staff who treated him throughout his illness. They would also like to thank Oak Hammock and its staff for the wonderful care and support that they gave him while he resided at the Memory Unit.
At Dr. Talbert's request, no funeral is planned. A Celebration of Life will be held by the University of Florida Department of Surgery at a future date. The Talbert family requests that in lieu of flowers memorial donations be made to the James Lewis Talbert Lectureship in Pediatric Surgery, Department of Surgery, Office of the Chair, P.O. Box 100286, Gainesville, FL 32610-0286 (www.uff.ufl.edu/giving-opportunities/007195-james-lewis-talbert-lectureship-in-pediatric-surgery/) or to the Ronald McDonald House of North Central Florida, 1600 S.W. 14th Street, Gainesville, FL 32608 (www.rmhcncf.org), where many out-of-town families of Dr. Talbert's patients stayed while their children recovered from their medical treatments. Please visit his memorial page at
Published in Gainesville Sun from July 7 to July 8, 2019
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