James Whitacre, MA, RRT and Jeff Ward, MEd, RRT, FAARC.
The respiratory care community lost a pioneering member late last month with the passing of James Whitacre, MA, RRT, at the age of 93.
One of the earliest members of the AARC, Whitacre served the Association on its Board of Directors in the late 1950s and early 1960s. He also was appointed secretary of the ARIT (precursor to the NBRC) in 1960. But his biggest contribution to the profession came even earlier, when he took over the helm of what was then a fledgling publication—the journal we all know today as Respiratory Care.
“He was the first editor of Respiratory Care, 1956–1967, and is pretty much credited by some of us as the one who ‘created’ the Journal,” says Respiratory Care Managing Editor Ray Masferrer, RRT, FAARC. “He, more than anyone else, had the vision that a professional medical society must have a science journal as part of its existence.”
Whitacre was among the first RTs to recognize the need for a higher level of education for therapists as well and founded one of the nation’s first bachelor’s degree RT programs at the University of Missouri (MU) in Columbia in the 1960s.
Former AARC Executive Director Sam Giordano, MBA, RRT, FAARC, recalls Whitacre from his own early days in the profession back in Kansas City and St. Louis, MO.
“He was one of the very few registered therapists in Missouri, and found time to help many of OJTs like me prepare for our registry tests. He also served as secretary of the ARIT and signed my registry certificate with Dr. Albert Andrews.”
During Whitacre’s visit to the MU program last year, his former student Jeff Ward, MEd, RRT, FAARC, sat down with the man he considers his lifelong mentor to talk about the founding of the MU program and profession then and now.
“I think the thing I learned by watching Jim was that the real pleasures in this profession come both at the bedside and then in the professional contributions you do,” said Ward.
Whitacre himself spoke to the power of the personal touch and his own gratitude to a profession that served him well. “You do as much therapy with your presence as you do with your equipment,” said the AARC Life Member and Jimmy A. Young Medalist. “I’ve certainly been lucky. I could hardly have gotten myself into a field that I would enjoy more.”
You can watch their entire conversation here—