Emotional Tributes Honor Miller School Trauma Surgeon Jeffrey Augenstein
In a packed auditorium at the Lois Pope LIFE Center, the friends, colleagues, admirers and loved ones of Jeffrey S. Augenstein, M.D., Ph.D., paid tribute after emotional tribute to the 64-year-old Miller School professor of surgery, and trauma injury prevention and telemedicine pioneer, who died in Los Angeles last month while on a business trip.
“Dr. Augenstein touched a lot of lives all over the world,” said Barth A. Green, M.D., professor and chair of neurological surgery and a longtime colleague and friend who served as master of ceremonies at the February 28 memorial. “He was an extraordinary person and we are here today to celebrate his life and honor his memory. People are here from all over the world.”
Indeed, there were friends and associates from as far away as Germany, including representatives from BMW Group, who came to pay their respects to the forward-thinking surgeon who helped make cars safer for millions of drivers.
Dr. Augenstein received four degrees from the University of Miami and spent his entire career on the UM/Jackson Memorial Medical Center campus, where he was instrumental in the creation of the Ryder Trauma Center, which he directed for five years. For the past two decades, he directed the internationally recognized William Lehman Injury Research Center, which was established to improve the treatment, prevention, and rehabilitation of traumatic injuries resulting from blunt trauma.
“The work Jeff performed has been of incredible value to our fellow humans,” said Miller School Dean Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D. “He was a dear friend and he will be terribly missed.”
“Jeff was the man who held together our trauma mission with such strength and such perseverance,” said Carlos Migoya, President and CEO of Jackson Health System. “We do not really have the words or the thoughts to do justice to Jeff’s legacy.”
To honor Dr. Augenstein’s life-saving collaborations with firefighters, police, and especially the military, uniformed officers from many branches and agencies took part in the ceremony. His voice wavering, Lieutenant Colonel George Garcia, M.D., director of the Ryder Trauma Center-based Army Trauma Training Center, said Augenstein was crucial to the development – and success – of the training program for forward surgical teams headed to Iraq and Afghanistan.
“I have heard Dr. Augenstein say on several occasions that his work with the military, and the Army Forward Surgical Teams in particular, was the highlight of an astounding career and that he was so proud to be a part of it,” Garcia said. “But he had it wrong. It is we who are proud to have worked with him. And I hope that, someday, we live up to his expectations of us and become deserving of his pride.”
Tributes also came from Gerard A. Kaiser, M.D., emeritus professor of surgery; Klaus Compass, vice president for safety for BMW Group, and Tom Baloga, a BMW vice president who presented Dr. Augenstein’s wife, Debbie, with a plaque; Brian G. Anderson, battalion chief of Miami-Dade Fire Rescue; Antonio Marttos, M.D., assistant professor of surgery and director of telemedicine at the Lehman Injury Research Center; Carl Schulman, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of surgery and co-director of the Lehman Injury Research Center; and Irvin Lustig, Ph.D., manager of mathematical and optimization software at IBM Research. He spoke about Dr. Augenstein’s work ethic, curiosity and compassion, which Lustig witnessed as a teen intern in Dr. Augenstein’s lab.
Admiration from afar also came from Kennerly Digges, Ph.D., professor of engineering at George Washington University, who was in Sydney, Australia, and from Alan S. Livingstone, M.D., professor and chair of the Miller School’s Department of Surgery, who was attending the Western Trauma Association conference in Vail, Colorado.
After Elana Perdeck, a former colleague and friend, lovingly recounted the years she spent working with Dr. Augenstein, Debbie Augenstein added a few lighter-hearted moments. Thanking all those in attendance, she reminisced fondly about the man she married 36 years ago. She said he always put a premium on auto safety – yet drove a Corvette for a dozen years. He loved the military, and returned to Miami from treating earthquake victims in Haiti with “a renewed sense that telemedicine was not just a way for Haiti, but for the world.”
“He felt that if he could do it in Haiti he could do it anywhere,’’ she said, “because Haiti had no infrastructure and was a perfect testing ground for electronic medical records and every aspect of medical training.”
“I urge you to do what you can to keep this mission going,” she told his friends, colleagues and admirers, who all vowed to do just that.