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A full heart

Remembering Hugh Stephenson, Mr. Mizzou Medicine

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  • Story by Ryan Gavin
  • Published: July 26, 2012
Hugh Stephenson

Hugh Stephenson established the University of Missouri's four-year medical program and was an innovator in the field of medicine. Photo from the 1957 Missouri Alumnus, page 21.

Hugh Stephenson, a University of Missouri graduate and former administrator and curator, has died. He was 90 years old.

Known affectionately as Mr. Mizzou Medicine, Stephenson was credited with establishing the university’s four-year medical program and was an innovator in the field of medicine.

"I speak for the entire MU family when I say how very saddened we are to learn of the passing of one of the true giants in the history of the University of Missouri Hospital and Clinics and the School of Medicine," said MU Chancellor Brady Deaton in a statement. "His interests were varied, his skills were legendary and his legacy will live on."

Stephenson, AB ’43, BS Med ’43, graduated from the university’s medical school when it was a two-year program. After serving in the military, he returned to Mizzou and pushed to establish a four-year medical school. After succeeding in 1952, Stephenson became one of the school's first faculty members.

As an intern in 1950, Stephenson developed the world's first cardiac crash cart. It included a defibrillator that could deliver an electronic shock directly to the heart. He also developed the first course in cardiopulmonary resuscitation for physicians and published his Cardiac Arrest and Resuscitation textbook in 1958.

In 1956, he was honored as one of the Ten Outstanding Young Men of America by the U.S. Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees). The award nationally recognized recipients for outstanding contributions to their professions and to the welfare of the people.

In 1958 Stephenson, working at the newly opened University Hospital, was the surgeon on a 19-member team who performed the first open-heart surgery in Mid-Missouri. He would go on to serve as the chair of the surgery department, chief of general surgery, chief of staff, and interim dean of the MU School of Medicine.

Hugh Stephenson

Stephenson was named to the UM Board of Curators in 1996, and he served through 2001.

In 2003 the medical school named the surgery department in his honor. Additionally, an annual American Heart Association event and School of Medicine award are named for him.

Stephenson was active in the Beta Theta Pi fraternity. He held offices of general fraternity president (1978-81), vice president (1973-76) and district chief (1967-73) and also had been a chapter counselor, a house corporation board member, chairman of the fund-raising campaign for a new chapter house and a faculty adviser. A major addition to the Zeta Phi chapter house has been named the Hugh E. Stephenson, Jr. Annex.

"He has spent countless hours ensuring Beta continues as the leading fraternity at Mizzou and across the country," the Zeta Phi chapter website reads. "His dedication has served as a pillar of support for Zeta Phi since his initiation in 1940."

Survivors include Dr. Stephenson's wife, Sally, of Columbia; daughter Ann Stephenson Cameron, husband Alex Cameron, and grandchildren Sarah and Scott Cameron of Edmond, Oklahoma; son Hugh (Ted) Edward Stephenson III of Columbia; niece Sally Anglin of Brunswick, Missouri; and nephew Rick Greenblatt of Boston.

Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. on Aug. 11 at First Baptist Church in downtown Columbia, Mo.

Learn more about the life of Stephenson from the School of Medicine.

Read more in:  On CampusHealth & MedicineScience & TechnologyBeyond Campus

Reader feedback

  • Dr. Stephenson performed his first open heart surgery at Boone County Hospital in the fall of 1957. He performed this surgery on my father, Walter H. Baird. In those days the surgery was much different, and the recovery time was much different. I was a sophomore at Hickman High School when they did the surgery, and my sister was a freshman at Mizzou. Our brother John Baird was in junior high school at the time. He later graduated from Mizzou's law school. I graduated from Mizzou in 1965 and 1966. 

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Last updated: Aug. 15, 2012