William Howard Waugh

William Howard Waugh

William Howard Waugh, M.D., FACP, passed away on Wednesday, July 18, 2012, after a long illness. A memorial service will be held Sunday at 4 p.m. in the Wilkerson Funeral Chapel.

Dr. Waugh was born on May 13, 1925, in New York City, son of Richey L. Waugh, M.D, Medical Director of the United States Public Service, and Lyda L. Waugh. He was the third of four sons, Richey L. Waugh, Jr., MD, Robert J.L. Waugh, MD, and Charles R. Waugh.
Dr. Waugh attended Boston Public Latin School in Boston, Boston University, West Virginia University, and graduated from Tufts University School of Medicine in Medford, MA. He was a veteran of WWII with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Korean Conflict with the U.S. Air Force Medical Corps, where he served as a physician in Nagoya, Japan, during the American Occupation. He and his young wife Eileen shared this adventure on their way to their 59 years of marriage.

Dr. Waugh was a respected medical scientist, physician, and professor. He held faculty positions at the Medical College of Georgia, the Kentucky Heart Association (endowed) Chair of Cardiovascular Research and Professor of Medicine at the University of Kentucky School of Medicine, and he was instrumental in founding the East Carolina School of Medicine. At ECU he was Professor of Medicine and Professor of Physiology, served as Director of the Department of Clinical Sciences for the young medical school, and was Acting Chair of the Department of Medicine. He served ECU for 30 years and devoted much energy to ensuring high scientific ethics by chairing the institutional review board for research with human subjects, for both the medical school and the university, for 18 years.

After "retirement" in 2001, he remained active and productive as Professor Emeritus in Physiology and continued to conduct original scientific research, publish professionally, and earned several patents for his work. In his later years much of his work was done from his home laboratory. His last scientific publication was as recent as 2 years ago at age 85. 

His interests were wide and varied, ranging from cardiovascular science, renal physiology, the biology of Daphnia (water flea), sickle cell anemia, biochemistry of Alzheimer's disease, and development of nutraceutical substances from solid laboratory science-from which he obtained several national and international patents with ongoing licensing for sale of products based on his discoveries. Most recently, a prospective purchaser of some of his patents acknowledged that, in their research, they had found Dr. Waugh to have been at the forefront of medical discoveries for seven decades, which is a remarkable accomplishment.

He was known as an indefatigable researcher and medical scholar who asked penetrating questions of existing theories, at times leading to innovative discoveries. As an example of his innovative mind, as a young physician he reasoned that an antihistamine medication (trade name Benadryl) could treat and save lives in the emergency treatment of severe Parkinsonian side-effects from major tranquillizers, drugs that were revolutionizing psychiatry in 1960 but sometimes produced serious side-effects. This was a landmark discovery that every psychiatrist and every emergency room doctor since 1960 has relied upon. He too was known for his expertise in medical diagnosis, akin to the television character "House." He was able to diagnose conditions over the telephone that confounded physicians doing a physical in-person examination.

Dr. Waugh also was an athlete. For decades he competed in the Master's Division of amateur track and field, performing the shot put and discus. He competed in those events every year between the age of 59 through 85, participating in local, state, regional and national competitions. He earned numerous medals from competitions, even into his 80's. His best competitive throw at age 85 was only 1/4 inch from All-American status for his age group. And on his 87th birthday, he threw several throws from his walker.

When not in his lab or in the medical library, he enjoyed watching college football, boxing, and Sherlock Holmes movies, as well as discussing sports with his son William. He also liked going to the beach with his wife and family and eating Hershey's Chocolate Bars. And throughout his life, he never missed the chance to engage in a "spirited intellectual debate." This propensity at times invoked trepidation in his many medical students at East Carolina University.

The personal strengths that propelled Dr. Waugh's many and varied accomplishments include persistence, determination, a dedication to excellence, and rigorous pursuit of the truth. He evidenced these traits both in his professional and personal lives. He wanted to make a difference in the world, and he did.

He is survived by his wife, Eileen Garrigan Waugh, of Greenville; children, Mark H. Waugh, of Knoxville, Tenn., Kathleen C. Waugh, of Scottsdale, Ariz., and William P. Waugh, of Goldsboro; and a grandson, Robert M. Waugh, of New York City.

In lieu of flowers, the family request donations be made to Sickle Cell Foundation of America, 231 East Baltimore Street, Suite 800, Baltimore, Maryland 21202.

Online condolences at www.wilkersonfuneralhome.com.

Published in The Daily Reflector on July 21, 2012