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Sunday, August 31, 2014
The Passing of a Fine Physician
We first met Dr. Francis Stanford Massie, Sr. when our children were small. We have a number of people in our family with a wide variety of allergies, and the move to Virginia with small children seemed for a time, to make those allergies worse. We didn't know it at the time, but our choice to see Dr. Massie had been a fine one.
Dr. Massie grew up in the rural community of Waynesville, North Carolina. He had an appreciation for rural life, and for fishing and hiking. He attended Duke University for his undergraduate degree and for medical school. Afterward, he completed a residency at the University of California at San Francisco in pediatrics and then an additional residency in allergy. Then, he served two years at the naval hospital in Camp Pendleton. From 1983 on, he became a Clinical Professor first in both Pediatrics and then later in Allergy and Immunology at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine. He also maintained a solo practice as an allergist/immunologist for many years. He enjoyed playing classical piano and also for a time, played in a jazz band.
I remember him as a very scientific and exacting physician. He questioned us very carefully as to what seemed to cause our symptoms. He kept meticulous records. He would get up very early in the morning, in order to complete the most challenging tasks of his day between about 7am-8am. He also had an excellent memory, and he remembered things we had told him about our large family. He also was extremely punctual and didn't like it if patients were not on time, because he was, and although he kept to a strict schedule, every patient could count on getting the time and attention they needed.
I did not know this until later, but Dr. Massie had created the first board approved residency program in Pediatric Allergy in Virginia at the Medical College of Virginia . Finally, Virginia would have pediatric allergists trained specifically by Dr. Massie.
It didn't take long for Dr, Massie to control our children's asthma, beesting allergies, and to identify Daniel's food allergies. Our biennial visits for each one of us, were important for our health, but he took pleasure in seeing our children grow and in their becoming more articulate. I don't think he was thrilled with our choice to homeschool them, at first, but he could not have been more pleased when our children, when they were still young teens attended community college and then went on to do well at their universities. He was especially interested in the projects of our children who received degrees in sculpture and in illustration. He had a great appreciation for art and for artistry. Several of our eldest sons works were displayed in his office.
In his later years, Dr. Massie closed his solo practice and joined an established allergy practice, but he continued to see his own patients, to encourage families and to educate physicians and other medical professionals. He was also a great encouragement to me professionally.
Dr. Massie was the last physician to examine Daniel just weeks before Daniel passed. So many times it has been a comfort to me that one of the finest physicians I have ever known did a detailed physical (not usually done for a simple allergy follow up visit) and it had been fine. It helped me to see that perhaps I had not "missed something" that we could have detected and taken steps to intervene to keep Daniel here. Dr, Massie was the physician who ultimately signed Daniel's death certificate. He was also the physician who read us the final copies of Daniel's autopsies and answered the questions we had about them. We had both not seen anything wrong, and yet Daniel had died of a sudden arrhythmia. Dr. Massie, and several of his staff members who were known to us, attended Daniel's funeral, and that day, Dr. Massie was not our allergist, he was part of our family, and his love and his sorrow shone through. We did not grieve our great loss alone.
I know he was exceptionally proud of both of his sons. F. Stanford Massie Jr. MD is a professor of Internal Medicine in a major medical school in the South. Tristan Massie Ph D, is a medical biostatistician at the US Food and Drug Administration. He loved them deeply and the same was true of their families, his grandchildren. For many years a picture of both sons hung in his office in remembrance of a family trip to Machu Picchu. He also adored his little dogs, and was quite devoted to them.
I know that Dr. Massie spent a life abundantly well lived here. He touched the lives of many patients and families and trained many physicians and encouraged many other professionals. We all should be lucky enough to have a physician, at least once who is bright enough and diligent enough to do such a fine job. And even then, results are never guaranteed and when the worst happens,and there is a loss of a child, he did not distance himself from us. He remained there answering our questions as best he could knowing that we too had done our best in CPR that day.
I never really got a chance to tell you, although I did hug you the last time we saw each other.
Thank you for everything. You used to tell me that I was such a good mother to these children, when in point of fact, sometimes it was your encouragement that provided the courage for me to continue to do the things I needed to do. You will be greatly missed by so many people, and by so many families.
I know that Daniel was waiting in line to welcome you.