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UCLA Emergency Medicine Center director Dr. Marshall Morgan dies at 73

Dr. Marshall T. Morgan, director of the Emergency Medicine Center in the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine, died recently from cancer. (Los Angeles Daily News)

By Mila Abushmaies

May 1, 2015 11:12 a.m.

Dr. Marshall T. Morgan, director of the Emergency Medicine Center in the David Geffen School of Medicine, died on April 16 after being diagnosed with cancer two months earlier. He was 73.

Friends, family and coworkers remember him as a physician and father who led by example and practiced medicine with empathy and compassion.

“Medicine to him was more an art than a science,” said his daughter Courtney Morgan-Greene. “I think it was more about the care and treatment of people rather than the care and treatment of diseases.”

David Schriger, a professor in the department of emergency medicine at UCLA, said he thinks Morgan held to his own higher standards for patient care. Even in a busy working environment, Morgan still found time to listen to each patient.

Schriger met Morgan when he began as a fellow at UCLA in 1989. Morgan was serving as chairman of the emergency medicine department and continued to do so for 26 years.

“I think the reason that he lasted so long in that position is that he just got along so well with everyone and never saw the chair as a source of power,” Schriger said. “To him, his source of power was being a good human being.”

Morgan was born in 1941 in the rural town of Hamilton, Ohio. He grew up in a house without indoor plumbing and his parents were two schoolteachers from Kentucky, his daughter said. One of his first part-time jobs was mowing the lawn at the local cemetery, she added.

Morgan-Greene said she thinks her father’s humble beginnings made him a uniquely sympathetic and compassionate person.

“He was this country boy and sophisticated city doctor all at once,” she said.

Morgan graduated from Princeton University in 1964 with a degree in French literature and received his medical degree from the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine in 1968. He was trained in internal medicine and cardiology at UCLA Harbor General Medical Center but decided to pursue emergency medicine instead.

“He called upon his experience with internal medicine and would take on difficult patients that no one else wanted to take on,” Schriger said. “When he did that, he made a commitment and could often be seen after overnight shifts back first thing in the morning because his patient was hospitalized.”

Morgan served as director of the UCLA Emergency Medicine Center beginning in 1981 after four years of directing the Santa Monica Hospital’s emergency department, where he helped establish the Santa Monica Rape Treatment Center.

Morgan’s wife Jean Campbell said that he was passionate about caring for people from all walks of life.

“He managed to be there for everyone in a variety of ways and was an incredible leader,” Campbell said. “I think he looked at the emergency department as a family and never mentioned his title or status.”

When Morgan-Greene was a young girl, she said she and her father were once in a Blockbuster video store and a customer dropped to her knees in front of Morgan.

“She just began crying, and she told her two sons who were with her, ‘This is the man who saved your father,'” Morgan-Greene said. “Then the two sons began to cry and began to thank him profusely. They treated him like royalty.”

Doctors diagnosed Morgan with cancer in February of 2015. His wife said that they traveled a long road emotionally in the short period of time between his diagnosis and his death, but support from family and friends made it easier.

Morgan wrote a personal note, shared by his wife, after he was diagnosed in February.

“Most of my thoughts have been around changing the expectation of my remaining life span, and hoping that I will be spared severe pain and disability for some time, so I can enjoy my family, my friends and this wonderful planet to the greatest extent possible before I leave them behind,” Morgan wrote.

He is survived by his wife, Campbell, his children Morgan-Greene, Marshall T. Morgan Jr., Shirl Monique Vanderplas, Terrence Watson and John Watson; 10 grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

A celebration of his life will be held at 4 p.m. May 11 at the Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles.

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Mila Abushmaies
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