Our Tribute to one of ACCE’s most prominent founders
Robert L. Morris, PE, CCE
December 28, 1936 - March 2, 2001
Clinical Engineer, Humanitarian, Mentor
(by Robert Morris, Dec 2000)
I foresee a time when I must flee
Over land and sky and sea
To a place where fate, both known and not
Is there, awaiting me.
On a mountaintop, beneath an azure sky
I’ll formally go round the oomra.
On the third time round when the rock falls down
I will slowly fade away.
My shadow and I Neath that azure sky will simply cease to be.
Old Khayyam was partly right when he mentioned
“A veil through which we cannot see.”
It is not a veil but a boundary
Between to be and not.
And on that day on that mountain top,
My shadow and me will cross that boundary.
Bob Morris passed away on March 2 following a most courageous battle with cancer. He was a charter Member of ACCE, easily achieved Fellow Status, and was a former President. His international work gave him his greatest inspiration and he truly made ACCE the international leader of Clinical Engineering activities. I most enjoyed watching his mind work and feeling his passion for ideas. He will be sorely missed!
Jennifer Ott, ACCE President, March 2001
My friend Bob Morris died a few days ago, I’ll miss him. The world will miss him. Much can be said about the man. How he tirelessly crisscrossed the globe helping people and countries with his keen insight and knowledge of clinical engineering.
How, in a compassionate response to a fax from Mongolia, he arranged for the care of a 16-year old girl, Enkhariun, who was suffering from acute lymphatic leukemia. How clinical engineers young and old, who revered him, encircled Bob at meetings and gazed into his face with appreciation and awe. Bob Morris with her father, Mr. Tuvaan at their house in Mongolia.
Bob enjoyed poetry. The Journey, a poem he wrote and shared with me (above). I marveled, as he was always the one remaining awake and alert after discussions that went far into the night. How he gave his full energy to the ACCE from its inception, as Founding Member, President, ACCE News Editorial Committee member, Membership Committee Chairman, Past President and Nominating Committee Chairman. How he frequently contributed material for publication, material marked by typical Morris’ horse sense.
I dedicate this issue of ACCE News to Bob.
Joseph Dyro, ACCE News Editor, March 2001
ACCE is small, but has a lot of recognition internationally. That is probably because Bob always said that we were a bunch of “prima donnas”. However, in his quiet and mild mannered way, he was the “el primo don.”
James Wear, Education Committee, Little Rock, Arkansas
March 2, 2001 is truly a sad day in Clinical Engineering field. We all have lost a true giant in the healthcare technology field. The loss of Bob Morris will be acutely felt in Estonia, where he lectured at the Tartu University and provided direct support and advice on numerous occasions to the Medical Technology Center. The Estonian Medical Technology Working Group will hold next meeting in March. We will honor Bob’s passing with the lighting of a candle, a moment of silence and will discuss appropriate ways to honor Bob’s contribution to accelerating medical technology advancement in Estonia.
Estonian Medical Technology Working Group, Estonia
I am saddened to report that on the morning of March 2 the clinical engineering world lost one of its greatest pioneers, educators, developers, contributors, adventurers, mentors, iconoclasts, conservatives, radicals – choose the adjective, they all fit. Truly a man for all seasons. Only a few days prior I had agreed to write a profile on Bob for the ACCE Newsletter, wanting it to be a profile not a eulogy, as we knew time was short but never believing it was so short. It was to start out like this.
Bob Morris can top any of his colleagues when it comes to “we were so poor” stories, saying he never experienced indoor plumbing until he went into the service. That time in the Air Force gave him an early background in nuclear technology, which served him well in his later years as a biomedical and clinical engineer. Anyone who has worked with Bob will have a favorite Bob Morris story to share. After the service, Bob pursued a degree in physics, first at Contra Costa Junior College, then at Reed College and finished at Portland State University. Bob always argued that a physics degree was much more useful than an engineering degree to one working in as diverse field as biomedical and later, clinical engineering.
While pursuing his bachelor’s degree he was also working as a technician at the University of Oregon Medical School. It was here that we first became acquainted and formed a lifetime friendship. After his graduation from Portland State I was able to offer him a position in my department, Research Instrument Service at the Medical School, stating July 1. However, since his first assignment would be as a lab assistant in an electronics course to start at the beginning of July he would have to, on his own, run through and test all the experiments beforehand. Not only did this not deter him, he seemed to actually enjoyed doing all the experiments on his own time by himself. His thirst for learning covered a variety of subjects throughout his life. Not too many years ago, he took a course in Japanese, “Just because it seemed interesting and I hope to go to Japan one day.”
His engineering contributions to Research Instrument Service throughout the sixties were enormous as documented by the numerous publications of original equipment developments. I counted eight publications or presentations in the “partial listing his CV. His ability to engineer unique instrument solutions for research problems coupled with the availability of research grant money during those years caused the department to grow and actually double in size. Then there was the warm summer evening in the sixties when he and I and another member of the department were enjoying a cool beer and Bob asked: “How come the Medical School still does not have a computer service?” And I responded, “Perhaps because there is no one who knows how to run one.” To which Bob said, “We do!” And with the year, Research Instrument Service was offering a computer service managed by Bob and later to become the University’s main centralized computer service.
Bob left Research Instrument Service to become the Clinical Pathology Department’s clinical engineer in the early seventies. His activities there expanded to the role of technology manager, long before technology management was seen as the vital role played by today’s clinical engineers. The Clinical Pathology Department learned what a wise acquisition they had made when Bob was able to show them savings he generated each year far in excess of the salary he was paid. At one time, he offered to take no salary, instead be given the amount he saved the department each year, they declined! His status as a clinical engineer became recognized in 1975 when he became one of the first forty-nine clinical engineers to be certified by The International Certification Commission. He went on to serve two terms on the Board of Examiners for the Clinical Engineering Certification totaling eight years.
In 1980 he was granted a four-month sabbatical Bob went international. He served as a consultant in biomedical engineering for the Project HOPE in Cairo, Egypt, giving lectures to graduate and undergraduate students as well as setting up laboratory experiments at Cairo University. His international teaching and training activities continued unabated from then until last fall when he participated in ACEW in Mexico and Panama.
Bob will probably best be remembered for the combination of his adventures and humanitarian sides in his international work. As examples, he’ll be remembered in China for his bicycling off into the countryside, losing his way, drawing a crowd (always happens with a foreigner), finding no one who spoke English and attempting to obtain directions while all they wanted to do was observing him. Eventually he figured something out and made his way home. In Egypt, he survived a snack of fresh dates washed in a polluted Nile tributary (he had observed a dead horse in the Canal) served by the parents of one of his students on a weekend visit to their farm.
But it was here in Mongolia where his humanitarian side shone. It seems that the teenage daughter of the local chief of police was terminally ill with cancer that was treatable in the U.S. but not in Ulan Bator, Mongolia. Upon his return to the US Bob had one of the physicians at the Oregon Health Sciences University work out a treatment protocol for the girl and put him in touch with the girl’s attending physician. The treatment was successful and the girl was cured. After that whenever Bob went there the chief, in his gratitude, met him at the airport and provided him a car (and lodging if he wanted it) for the duration of his visit.
In many parts of Bob’s CV, the various listing of his activities, publications, etc.…are followed by (A Partial List). This write-up and tribute to Bob is also only a “A PARTIAL LIST!” To cover the many aspects of this talented and complex person, would require far more space and time. Sufficient to say he will be sorely missed.
George Johnston, Portland, Oregon
As a representing member of the Ministry of Health in Mexico (SSA) I wish to express the sorrow for the loss of Bob Morris to the large family of biomedical and clinical engineering, in our conditions, a great deal of his teachings persist I many of the technical manuals we were able to translate form his work to be used with our trainees thanks to his agreement to do so and by the good works of another great friend., Howard Metz. Rest in peace, Bob, and be assure that your work will be kept up by those that had the opportunity to learn from your teachings.
Hector Brust, Ministry of Health, Mexico
Bob was my first boss, my mentor, and most importantly my friend. A lot of the skills I have today I owe to him.
Kevin Taylor, Yellowknife, Canada
We are sad at the loss of dear friend Bob Morris. He was a tremendous inspiration to all of us as a clinical engineer and also as person willing to help others. We will miss him very much.
Andrei Issakov, WHO; Antonio Hernandez, PAHO, Alfred Jakniunas, InfraTech, ACCE
In honor of Bob’s unique international contributions, a perpetual annual award has been created in his name. The Robert L. Morris ACCE Humanitarian Award has been established to honor an individual humanitarian every year. The recipient will be a person who has used medical technology to benefit humanity and who exemplifies the special courage and compassion that Bob showed in everything he did.