Transitions: Pioneering Member of Profession John Robbins Passes Away

 Published: September 14, 2022

By: Debbie Bunch


image of industry news logo

The respiratory care profession lost another pioneering member of the field with the passing of John D. Robbins, RRT, on August 24. He was 81.

Scott DabbeneJohn D. Robbins.

First RRT in the Army

Known as “Johnny” by friends, family, and colleagues, Robbins was a veteran who served seven years in the U.S. Army, first as a Corpsman in Korea and later at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, DC.

He became a nurse while stationed at Walter Reed and then got in on the ground floor of a new field called inhalation therapy.

The move would prove to be a defining moment in what would become a long and fruitful career that included becoming the very first Registered Respiratory Therapist in the Army.

After the Army, Robbin’s career took him to Watts Hospital in Durham, NC, where he became director of the respiratory therapy department. In addition, he held a faculty position for the respiratory therapy program at Durham Technical Institute, where he also earned his own associate’s degree in the profession.

Robbins eventually moved on to serve as administrative director of special services for the Durham County Hospital Corporation, now Duke Regional. There he was known for his negotiating skills, budgeting practices, personnel management, and helping the hospital update its computer technology.

He retired from Durham County as chief information officer.

Member since 1965

In addition to his service to his employers, Robbins was an active member of his professional organizations. The North Carolina Society for Respiratory Care (NCSRC) benefited from his knowledge and expertise over the years. At the AARC, he served as chair of the House of Delegates in 1975. He also did a stint as chair of the Program Committee.

“John was a charter member when the NCSRC was established as an independent affiliate of the AARC in 1968 and served as president 1969-1970,” said Ricky Bowen, MS, RRT, current NCSRC delegate to the AARC House of Delegates. “He was recognized with our highest honors, Life Membership from both the AARC and the NCSRC, for his contributions to the respiratory care profession.”

John Robbins had been a member of the AARC since 1965, and all who knew him greatly appreciated his service to his profession and professional organizations. Bowen says his colleagues in the field recognized him as a firm leader who expected a lot of staff and students alike and provided the tools and knowledge they needed to move the profession forward.

“I am always impressed when looking back on the founders of our profession and how far we have come building on their groundbreaking work,” said Bowen. “Our deepest condolences to his family and friends.”

Email with questions or comments, we’d love to hear from you.

Debbie Bunch

Debbie Bunch is an AARC contributor who writes feature articles, news stories, and other content for Newsroom, the AARC website, and associated emailed newsletters. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, traveling, photography, and spending time with her children and grandchildren. Connect with Debbie by email or on AARConnect or LinkedIn.

Heading to the New Era

Elevate | Engage | Advocate | Educate

Copyright © 2024 American Association for Respiratory Care
9425 N. MacArthur Blvd, Suite 100, Irving, TX 75063-4706
(972) 243-2272  |