AARC Remembers Dr. J. Randall Curtis

 Published: February 23, 2023

By: Debbie Bunch


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The AARC was saddened to learn of the death of J. Randall Curtis, MD, MPH, a former president of the American Thoracic Society (ATS) and great supporter of the respiratory care profession.

Dr. Curtis was known for his willingness to mentor fellows, residents, and other health care professionals, but one of his biggest contributions came in the area of palliative care, where he is said to have had a far-reaching impact on patients and their families.

He conducted a number of clinical trials related to palliative care and was particularly interested in helping those with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis at the end of their lives, a disease that ended up taking his life as well.

Dr. Curtis believed RTs had an important role to play in palliative care and he addressed that role during the Donald F. Egan Scientific Memorial Lecture at the AARC Congress in 2007. His topic was, “Caring for Patients with Life-Threatening Illness and for Their Families: the Value of the Integrated Clinical Team.”

In a report on that lecture, Richard M. Ford, BS, RRT, FAARC, wrote, “Dr. Curtis introduced us to a program called IPACC, Integrating Palliative and Critical Care. This program incorporates a multifaceted/multidisciplinary approach in which caregivers receive special training and internal champions are designated in each ICU to create a new focus on palliative care. Respiratory therapists can make a difference as part of a collaborative, multidisciplinary approach to integrate palliative and ICU care.”

Dr. Curtis served as president of the ATS from 2009-2010. He received the ATS’s 2022 Outstanding Clinician Award and was the 2023 winner of the organization’s Edward Livingston Trudeau Award. The latter will be awarded posthumously at the upcoming ATS conference.

AARC President Carl Hinkson, MSc, RRT, RRT-ACCS, RRT-NPS, FAARC, worked with Dr. Curtis at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, WA, and remembers him for his ongoing support of respiratory therapists and his willingness to provide career advice to him personally at one point in his career.

At the time of his death, Dr. Curtis was serving as a professor in the division of pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine at the University of Washington.

You can read more about the legacy left by Dr. Curtis in this moving tribute published by the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management.

Email newsroom@aarc.org 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.

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