Dr Charles Kerr, 1949–2017

Issue: BCMJ, vol. 59, No. 7, September 2017, Page 373 Obituaries

Dr Charles Kerr (Charlie) died gently, surrounded by family, on 19 May 2017 at St. Paul’s Hospital after a difficult struggle with heart disease.

Photo: St. Paul's Foundation: Brian Smith, PHC Media Services

Dr Charles Kerr (Charlie) died gently, surrounded by family, on 19 May 2017 at St. Paul’s Hospital after a difficult struggle with heart disease. As a medical fixture and leader in BC he trained hundreds of us at UBC over the past 35 years, and so it is with profound fondness and sadness that I must remember him with these words. 

Charlie was born in 1949 in Toronto but moved to Vancouver early in his life when his father, Robert B. Kerr, accepted the position as the founding head of the Department of Medicine at UBC in 1950. In his youth, Charlie, along with his two older brothers, John and Jamie, attended University Hill Elementary and Secondary Schools in Point Grey. Many of the talents and abilities that Charlie later applied to develop his distinguished career and guide his private life were apparent during his years at high school. He was a straight-A student, a member of the student council, and an athlete. Fellow students remember Charlie as a jovial guy with a charming smile and a keen wit.

After graduating from high school in 1966, Charlie commenced his postsecondary education at Neuchatel Junior College in Switzerland for 1 year before moving on to UBC. In 1973 he fulfilled his lifelong dream of following in his father’s footsteps as a medical doctor by graduating from UBC Medical School. After internal medicine and cardiology training at UBC, he attended further medical studies in London, England, before embarking on a fellowship in cardiac electrophysiology at Duke University. At that time cardiac EP was in its infancy. Charlie learned from the pioneers of the field and brought that expertise to BC as a new member of the UBC Division of Cardiology in 1981. Many younger physicians take the existence of a vibrant arrhythmia program for granted, but in 1981 there were neither cardiac electrophysiologists nor EP labs in Western Canada; Charlie started it all. His first EP lab was at University Hospital on the UBC main campus. The new depth of understanding of arrhythmia mechanisms and etiologies as well as the novel management strategies he brought provided British Columbians with state-of-the art, contemporary options.

His main interest in electrophysiology was mechanisms and management of atrial fibrillation, and through his clinical research activities he made important advances that improved the life of many Canadians. In 1983 he won the Canadian Cardiovascular Society Young Investigators Award, and in 2013 he received the Canadian Cardiovascular Society Annual Achievement Award. In 2015 he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Canadian Heart Rhythm Society.

Beyond clinical medicine, Charlie’s other loves were administration and leadership. He served as UBC Cardiology Division Head from 1995–2002, during which he helped meld two active and separate cardiology programs at St. Paul’s Hospital and Vancouver Hospital into one cohesive division. Over the years he chaired many provincial committees, striving to improve all aspects of cardiac care in this province. He was also president of the Canadian Cardiovascular Society from 2008–2010. Although he was determined to help improve cardiac care in Vancouver he was equally committed to providing tertiary-level care to remote communities, and regularly traveled to Prince Rupert, Hazelton, and Whitehorse to see patients with complex cardiac issues. 

As an acknowledgment of his importance as a pioneer, leader, and mentor, two UBC academic scholarships have been created in his name: the UBC Dr Charles Kerr Distinguished Scholar in Heart Rhythm Management, and the UBC Dr Charles Kerr Distinguished Scholar in Cardiovascular Genetics.

Charlie was gregarious and big hearted with an often wicked sense of humor. He was friendly and generous to students and staff and in exchange he was loved for it. He competed in triathlons and for years skied at Whistler. He also loved golf, and the group of Canadian electrophysiologists (named Cesspool) who have for the past 25 years gathered together to golf before the annual EP meeting will miss him terribly. We will certainly raise a glass to him when we next convene.

Charlie is survived by his loving wife, Karen; two children, Mireille and Brad; and two grandchildren, Evelyn and Charles in Calgary. The cardiac field feels diminished for the departure of such a huge historical figure. His name will live on in our memories and we will remember him with affection not only because of his impressive and peerless legacies but also for the man he was.
—Rick Leather, MD

Rick Leather, MD. Dr Charles Kerr, 1949–2017. BCMJ, Vol. 59, No. 7, September, 2017, Page(s) 373 - Obituaries.

Above is the information needed to cite this article in your paper or presentation. The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) recommends the following citation style, which is the now nearly universally accepted citation style for scientific papers:
Halpern SD, Ubel PA, Caplan AL, Marion DW, Palmer AM, Schiding JK, et al. Solid-organ transplantation in HIV-infected patients. N Engl J Med. 2002;347:284-7.

About the ICMJE and citation styles

The ICMJE is small group of editors of general medical journals who first met informally in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 1978 to establish guidelines for the format of manuscripts submitted to their journals. The group became known as the Vancouver Group. Its requirements for manuscripts, including formats for bibliographic references developed by the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM), were first published in 1979. The Vancouver Group expanded and evolved into the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE), which meets annually. The ICMJE created the Recommendations for the Conduct, Reporting, Editing, and Publication of Scholarly Work in Medical Journals to help authors and editors create and distribute accurate, clear, easily accessible reports of biomedical studies.

An alternate version of ICMJE style is to additionally list the month an issue number, but since most journals use continuous pagination, the shorter form provides sufficient information to locate the reference. The NLM now lists all authors.

BCMJ standard citation style is a slight modification of the ICMJE/NLM style, as follows:

  • Only the first three authors are listed, followed by "et al."
  • There is no period after the journal name.
  • Page numbers are not abbreviated.

For more information on the ICMJE Recommendations for the Conduct, Reporting, Editing, and Publication of Scholarly Work in Medical Journals, visit www.icmje.org

BCMJ Guidelines for Authors

Leave a Reply