Elgin doctor's research led a heart disease to be named after him

  • Dr. William Robert 'Bob' Meadows Jr.

    Dr. William Robert 'Bob' Meadows Jr.

Published: 7/17/2008 12:08 AM

Cardiologists rarely see it, but when they come across a pregnant woman who suddenly suffers severe heart failure, or "peripartum cardiomyopathy," they refer to as "Meadows Disease."

The name refers to longtime Elgin resident, Dr. William Robert "Bob" Meadows Jr., who served as lead author on a paper describing the condition in the early 1960s when he completed a fellowship at Cook County Hospital in Chicago.

Dr. Meadows died Sunday. He was 89.

Many of the area's cardiologists point to Dr. Meadows as one of their most influential teachers. He taught physical diagnosis of the heart to nearly all of the sophomore medical students at Loyola University and the University of Illinois medical schools, who did rotations at Hines VA Hospital in the West suburbs.

"He was a very meticulous clinician, scientist and investigator," says Dr. David Hale, a former student and faculty colleague, who is now cardiology chief at Alexian Brothers Medical Center in Elk Grove Village.

"As a teacher he was exacting and insisted on accuracy," Hale adds. "You couldn't make any random comments without backing them up with solid information."

Dr. Meadows was born in Chicago, but raised in Elgin. Family members say his maternal grandfather, Dr. Henry J. Gahagan, made a lasting impression on him. As a psychiatrist, he was one of the early administrators of the Elgin State Mental Hospital.

"He wanted to be a doctor for nearly as long as I can remember," says his brother, Harry Meadows, of Elgin.

Dr. Meadows attended Northwestern University for undergraduate studies and medical school. During World War II, he earned the Purple Heart for his injuries sustained while serving as a medical lieutenant Naval officer, attached to the 6th Marine Division in Okinawa, Japan.

After the war, Dr. Meadows joined the Veterans Administration staff in Livermore and Palo Alto, Calif., before transferring to Hines VA Hospital near Maywood, where he remained until his retirement in 1986.

He devoted his career to the study of cardiology and the study of cardiovascular disease. During the mid-1970s, Dr. Meadows served as the lead investigator on a national, multi-centered study that weighed the difference between medical management of coronary artery disease, and surgical management, through cardiac bypass surgery.

Colleagues describe it as a landmark study. It was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Dr. Meadows never married or had a family of his own. However, he remained closely involved with his extended family, and the longtime family business.

For more than 30 years, Dr. Meadows sat on the board of W. R. Meadows Inc., a manufacturing company of construction parts, started by his father, William Robert Meadows, in 1926. At the time of his passing, Dr. Meadows served as executive vice president of the board.

"Bob and I both felt that as the only members of the immediate family, that when our dad passed on, we should play a visible role in the company," Harry Meadows added.

Besides his brother, Dr. Meadows is survived by three nieces: Merrie Meadows (John) Derderian, Ann Meadows (Jim) Dwyer, and Martha Meadows Connell, and many grand nieces and nephews.

A funeral Mass will take place at 10 a.m. today at St. Mary's Catholic Church, 397 Fulton St. in Elgin.