I was fortunate as a junior medical student in 1957 to spend a 3-week rotation on Willis Hurst’s medical service at Emory University Hospital. It was during that period that Dr. Hurst was offered the chairmanship of the Department of Medicine at Emory University. He pondered the decision of whether to accept and freely discussed the pros and cons of it with me. Of course, I was both flattered and honored to be the recipient of his carefully considered thoughts. He traveled to Durham, North Carolina, to discuss the matter with Dr. Eugene Stead and to New Haven, Connecticut, to discuss the issue with Dr. Paul Beeson, both former chairmen of the department at Emory, and he shared their advice with me, a medical student, but only 11 or 12 years younger than he was. Those very open discussions with Dr. Hurst gave me considerable insight into academic medicine: what type of person is required to fill and prosper in that position, what staff and financial resources are needed, and so on. After a most thoughtful consideration, Dr. Hurst said “yes,” and the rest is history. For 30 years, he was a dynamic chairman, mentor, and friend to numerous students, house staff, fellows, and faculty members. My intentions before coming under Dr. Hurst’s “spell” were to be a surgeon, but he changed my course and was instrumental in directing me to Boston City Hospital for a medical internship. He was always a wise mentor and generous supporter during my 55 years of knowing him.
For a number of years, J. Willis Hurst edited the “Profiles in Cardiology” section of the journal Clinical Cardiology . One of his own pieces was titled “William C. Roberts.” For a mentor to write a piece about 1 of his many students shows in overt form his generosity, thoughtfulness, and humility. Dr. Hurst, I owe you much, and I will miss you.