CBS 11’s Matt Goodman Reports:
DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – A nationally renowned burn surgeon at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and Parkland Hospital was killed Sunday morning by a suspected drunken driver, Dallas Police officials said.
Dr. Gary F. Purdue, 65, was traveling northbound on a motorcycle at 7:20 a.m. Sunday in the 10400 block of Webb Chapel road when Justin Heaton, 24, ran a stop sign and smashed into Purdue’s bike, sending him flying through a backyard fence, police said. Heaton, who was driving a 1989 Jeep Comanche, then slammed into a second vehicle.
Heaton had been drinking, said Senior Cpl. Kevin Janse of the Dallas Police Department. Officials are unsure if Purdue was wearing a helmet, but his family maintains that he was wearing protective pads and a helmet.
Purdue was taken to Parkland Hospital where he died from blunt force trauma. Heaton was taken to Parkland with minor injuries, then arrested and charged with intoxication manslaughter, Janse said. The driver of the second car was treated and released from Parkland with minor injuries.
Heaton has an extensive criminal record, including possession of a controlled substance and multiple instances of property theft. He was sentenced to two years in jail on March 15, 2006 and released on parole July 14, 2006. This is his seventh charge, and jail officials said he was out of jail on a $25,000 bond Monday night.
Purdue was chief of the burn section in the Department of Surgery at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. He had been the co-director of the Parkland Memorial Hospital burn unit for 22 years, according to a release from the University of Texas.
He became chief of the burn section in 1994, and was also director of the Surgical Network Information Processing System at UT Southwestern. In 1998, Parkland named Purdue the Distinguished Physician of the year.
“He was a master,” said Dr. Joseph Mineai, a professor and Chairman of the Burn, Trauma and Critical Care Division at Parkland. “We had a close relationship. We used to go hunting every year. We’d have long talks during that time.”
Those who worked with Purdue said he would mentor both residents and medical students. Beyond the hospital, Purdue and his wife fostered close to 50 children during their time together. The burn doctor is also remembered for the time he spent at a summer camp for burn patients.
“Where he got some of his greatest joy and satisfaction is the care of a young child who was burned, who 15, 20 years later would invite him and his wife to their wedding,” Mineai said.
“He was calm, deliberate, tremendous compassion, empathy,” said Dr. John Hunt, the Co-Director of the Burn Unit at Parkland. “Patients came first”
Purdue was a former president of the American Burn Association and a member of the International Society of Burn Injuries, American Association for the Surgery of Trauma, Society of Critical Care Medicine and a fellow of the American College of Surgeons.
“Gary Purdue was not only an excellent burn surgeon, but he also was a superb educator who was recognized by medical students and resident trainees with numerous teaching awards,” said Dr. Robert Rege, chairman of surgery. “He was the consummate role model for young physicians, because he practiced medicine with the highest ethical standards.”
Purdue is survived by his wife, daughter, three sons and a grandson. Colleagues said they are considering naming the camp for burned children in his honor.
“Once in a lifetime somebody like this comes along,” Hunt said.