Harry Lee Page Jr Death and Obituary: After a protracted battle with sickness, Harry Lee Page Jr., MD, who was a pioneer of contemporary cardiology and a fixture at Vanderbilt for decades, passed away on August 1. He was 88.
In 1970, Dr. Page and Dr. Campbell established the Page-Campbell Cardiology Group at Saint Thomas Hospital. In 2006, the Page-Campbell Cardiology Group became a part of the Vanderbilt Heart and Vascular Institute. When he started his practice, coronary artery surgery was still in its infancy and was surrounded by a great deal of controversy. Because of this, he was involved in a series of firsts, including one of the very first coronary angioplasties performed in the United States.
Gainesboro, Tennessee, is where Dr. Page was born and raised. He was given the name Page in honor of his ancestor, the Revolutionary War hero General Henry “Light-Horse Harry” Lee III. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree with highest honors from Vanderbilt University in 1955 and his Doctor of Medicine degree from the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in 1959. After completing an internship and then two years of medical residency at Vanderbilt, he went on to work as the head medical resident at the Thayer Veteran’s Administration Hospital in Nashville from March to July 1962. He had previously worked as an intern at Vanderbilt.
After finishing his residency, he fulfilled his obligation to serve in the military by working as a lieutenant at the United States Naval Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, while also working as a clinical assistant in medicine at the Memphis University of Tennessee Hospital. He did this while also holding an appointment at the hospital. In 1964, the National Institutes of Health granted him a fellowship in cardiology as a cardiology fellow at the University of Colorado cardiology program in Denver. The fellowship lasted for two years.
In 1966, Dr. Page made his way back to Nashville, where he briefly worked as a cardiologist with Dr. Crawford Adams. After that, in 1967, Saint Thomas Hospital hired him on as the director of their cardiology department. At a period when coronary artery surgery was still in its infancy and very contentious, Page was assisted in his work by three cardiovascular surgeons with extremely high levels of training.
A cooperative educational endeavor between Saint Thomas University and Vanderbilt University was established in 1970. After much hard work and dedication, Dr. Page was finally promoted to the post of clinical professor of Medicine in the year 1982. Dr. Page was joined in the cardiology program at Saint Thomas in 1970 by W. Barton Campbell, MD, with whom he thereafter co-directed the cardiology program at Saint Thomas for the next 25 years. This was due to the fact that the cardiology department at Saint Thomas had begun to expand.
“It is, in every sense of the word, the end of an era,” Campbell remarked. Since 1970, when we first started making serious headway in this subject, there has been a significant amount of change. His passing marks a significant turning point in the sense that he was a trailblazer in many of these areas.
Dr. Page was a pioneer in the construction of a cardiac catheterization laboratory for the community at Saint Thomas Hospital, which first opened its doors on February 1, 1968 under his guidance. During a visit to his sister in Zurich, Switzerland, in August of 1978, he happened upon a demonstration of a new surgery called percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty (PTCA), which was being performed by Andreas Grüntzig, MD, who was just developing this (back then contentious) technique.
Dr. Page traveled to Zurich, Switzerland, to purchase the necessary equipment and receive more PTCA training. On September 5, 1979, he performed his first coronary angioplasty in the United States at the catheterization laboratory of a colleague in Syracuse, New York. This was one of the first four or five times that an operation of this kind has been performed in the United States. After that, he traveled back to Nashville, where on November 6, 1979, he was the one to perform the first coronary angioplasty surgery in the Mid-South at Saint Thomas Hospital.
Dr. Page was a pioneer in the field of cardiac angiography and intervention, joining the Society for Cardiac Angiography and Intervention in its early days and eventually becoming its president. Between the years 1978 and 1981, he served as the governor of the Tennessee branch of the American College of Cardiology. During the years 1983 and 1984, he served as president of the medical staff at Saint Thomas.
Dr. Page served on the editorial boards of the medical journals Catherization and Cardiovascular Diagnosis as well as Heart and Lung. In the immediate area, he was a member of the boards of directors of the Ensworth School, the Canby Robinson Society, and the Nashville Opera. He was proficient in a number of languages, particularly German. He was a friend of country music legend Chet Atkins, and the two would occasionally perform together on classical guitar. He was a co-founder of Cardiology Consultants, P.C., which in 1995 was renamed “The Page-Campbell Cardiology Group” by the younger members of the practice. Dr. Page and his wife, Shelley, decided to put money away to establish an endowment for a Vanderbilt Chair in Interventional Cardiology.
When André Churchwell, MD, was looking to leave his faculty post at Emory University in July 1991, the Page-Campbell Cardiology Group (PCCG) was the first medical practice in Nashville to hire someone from a minority background. After making this preliminary step in expanding the scope of cardiology in the Nashville area, the PCCG, in the ensuing years, recruited cardiologists Walter Clair, MD, Keith Churchwell, MD, Murali Kolli, MD, and Quinn Capers, MD, to join their team. These physicians, along with other PCCG physicians (Mark Glazer, MD, and Robert Hood, MD), currently serve in leadership positions at Vanderbilt University, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Yale University, and UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. This is in keeping with the spirit of leadership that Dr. Page embodied.
“Throughout the course of my career, I have had the opportunity to interact with a wide variety of outstanding educators, clinicians, and physician-scientists — the full spectrum of academic traits with which we are all familiar. Churchwell, who is the vice chancellor for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion at Vanderbilt University and the Chief Diversity Officer for the institution, stated that Harry Page belonged to a different genotype. “Those clinicians who have a deep wellspring of innate creativity, a one-of-a-kind sense of humor, and the ability to take calculated risks are a rare and select group.” Without Harry’s persistence and his inherent sense that it was the right time and the right thing to do, the Page-Campbell Group could never have come to Vanderbilt. This is a possibility, but not a certainty. With his departure, an era has come to an end, and we will never see another one like him pass this way again. He was a true right-brain-informing-his-left-brain thinker, and he always led with the question “what if?”
Dr. Page is survived by his wife of 54 years, Mary Shelley Carter Page; his daughter, Mary Sheridan Page; his son, Harry Lee Page, III; his sister, Sarah Cornwell Page Otten and her husband, Albert Otten, MD; and his grandchildren Ian Fatzinger, Owen Fatzinger, and Collin Page. In addition, Dr. Page is survived by his sister, Sarah Cornwell Page Otten and her husband.
On Sunday, October 2, from 2:00 to 6:00 p.m., there will be a gathering to celebrate the life of Dr. Page at the Noah Liff Opera Center.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Friends of Nashville Opera, which can be sent to the Noah Liff Opera Center at 3622 Redman Street, Nashville, Tennessee 37209.