ECU mourns the loss of professor, intervention cardiology pioneer

The East Carolina University and Brody School of Medicine community is mourning the loss of longtime faculty member and renowned interventional cardiologist Dr. Joseph Babb, who died in a car accident Thursday.

Dr. Joseph Babb

Dr. Joseph Babb

He was 79 years old.

Babb, a clinical professor in Brody’s Division of Cardiology, joined ECU’s faculty in 1995 and served in several capacities in addition to his professorship, including as director of the medical school’s cardiac catheterization laboratories and as program director for the cardiovascular diseases and interventional cardiology fellowships.

The day after learning of his death, students and colleagues remembered his kind manner and love of sharing his knowledge with students.

Brody nephrology professor Dr. MJ Barchman worked alongside and cared for many patients together with Babb for nearly 25 years.

“Dr. Babb was the epitome of a ‘gentleman and a scholar,’” Barchman said. “He was a highly competent cardiologist, patient teacher and a very kind man. To say he will be missed is a huge understatement.”

Dr. Susan Schmidt, Brody’s associate dean for student affairs, echoed Babb’s impact as an educator, calling him “a long-time student favorite” who represented “the best of ECU Physicians and our Brody faculty.”

Babb, a clinical professor in Brody’s Division of Cardiology, graduated from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore in 1966. He went on to complete an internship, residency and fellowship at Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School in Boston.

According to the Society for Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions (SCAI), Babb served in Vietnam and at Walter Reed Hospital as a member of the U.S. Army Medical Corps from 1968 to 1972.

In 1981, while an assistant professor of Medicine and Cardiologist at the Pennsylvania State University Hershey Medical Center, Babb reportedly conducted the first coronary angioplasty at Hershey. He later also became the first to perform that procedure in the state of Connecticut while serving as chief of cardiology at Bridgeport Hospital.

Babb joined ECU’s faculty in 1995 and served in several capacities in addition to his professorship, including as director of the medical school’s cardiac catheterization laboratories and as program director for the cardiovascular diseases and interventional cardiology fellowships.

Throughout his five decades in medicine, Babb was bestowed countless awards and honors.

He received the Distinguished Service Award of the Society for Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions in 2005, was a past governor of the American College of Cardiology from Connecticut and North Carolina, and was elected by his colleagues a Master of the Society of Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions in 2014. He was also a fellow of the American College of Cardiology and the Council for Clinical Cardiology of the American Heart Association, as well as a past SCAI president.

“Joe Babb was literally the best of the best. The best doctor and the best patient advocate I’ve ever known,” Norm Linsky, SCAI’s executive director from 2001–2015, said in a release. “When he spoke, he commanded the respect of everyone in the room. He knew that he was not advocating for doctors, rather for patient care, patients’ access to care, and a physician’s ability to do what is right for their patients.”

On Sept. 5, the day before his death, the exclusive medical society, Patient Preferred Physicians and Practitioners, announced that Babb had been meritoriously named 2018’s “Patient Preferred Interventional Cardiologist” for the state of North Carolina for his “dedication and excellence in patient care.”

Brody nephrology professor Dr. MJ Barchman worked alongside and cared for many patients together with Babb for nearly 25 years.

“Dr. Babb was the epitome of a ‘gentleman and a scholar,’” Barchman said. “He was a highly competent cardiologist, patient teacher and a very kind man. To say he will be missed is a huge understatement.”

Dr. Susan Schmidt, Brody’s associate dean for student affairs, echoed Babb’s impact as an educator, calling him “a long-time student favorite” who represented “the best of ECU Physicians and our Brody faculty.”

Babb’s students went out of their way to share fond memories of him and thoughts for his family upon hearing of his passing.

“I had the privilege of learning from Dr. Babb during the EKG course this past spring. He shared with us his light sense of humor and passion for teaching during every class session,” said Frank Jefferson, a fourth-year medical student. “My heart aches for his family. Dr. Babb’s memory will live on through the knowledge that he bestowed upon myself and countless other students as we use it to care for our patients.”

Dr. Mark Iannettoni, chair of Brody’s Department of Cardiovascular Sciences, said Babb was “a pioneer and an icon in the field of intervention cardiology.”

“He was a master technician and clinician who regarded his most important responsibilities were his patients, advancing the academic mission of the institution and preparing the next generation of cardiologists to carry on these missions,” Iannettoni said. “His kind and gentle spirit, and concern for his colleagues is the most important lesson he taught us and the biggest loss for the department. We can only hope to be the person Joe Babb was.”

 

-by Rob Spahr, University Communications