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Sacred Heart Remembers Children's Hospital Founder

Posted: 3/7/2017

Dr. Edward Westmark

Pensacola, Fla. -- Dr. Edward Westmark, one of the founding physicians of The Children’s Hospital at Sacred Heart, passed away on Sunday, March 5, 2017. The leaders and staff of Sacred Heart Health System are forever grateful for the contributions Dr. Westmark made to The Children’s Hospital and to the families of Northwest Florida.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the Westmark family,” said Susan Davis, president and CEO of Sacred Heart Health System. “Dr. Westmark has left an astounding legacy in our region’s healthcare, from the thousands of sick babies he cared for in our NICU, to the children from low-income families he served in our Pediatric Care Center, to the next generation of physicians he trained in our pediatric residency program. His dedication to improving the lives of Northwest Florida’s children and the kindness he bestowed on his colleagues along the way can never be forgotten.”

Dr. Westmark graduated from medical school at the University of Florida and served in private pediatric practices in Jay and Pensacola. Along with Dr. Reed Bell and Dr. John Whitcomb, Dr. Westmark was among a group of community pediatricians who first proposed to convert a former nursing school dormitory into the area’s only hospital dedicated solely to the care of children. This vision became a reality under the administration of the Daughters of Charity. The Children’s Hospital opened in 1969, with the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) soon following.

Dr. Westmark served as the founding medical director for neonatology at The Children’s Hospital -- known today as The Studer Family Children’s Hospital at Sacred Heart. In 1975, he became the first board-certified neonatologist in Northwest Florida.

“Dr. Westmark made it possible for us to have a first-rate NICU by giving up his practice and studying day and night to pass the first neonatal intensive care boards,” said Sr. Carol Keehan, The Children’s Hospital’s first nursing director who now serves as chief executive officer for Catholic Health Association of the United States. “He spent untold hours improving the quality of care by training physicians and nurses. He was never too busy to help and always treated the parents with incredible gentleness. He had a wonderful sense of humor and appreciated the contribution of every team member.”

In 2015, Dr. Westmark retired from medicine after 52 years of service. In addition to caring for under- and uninsured children at Sacred Heart’s Pediatric Care Center, Dr. Westmark instructed resident physicians through Sacred Heart’s pediatric residency program up until his retirement.

“Dr. Westmark served as a true model for the way medicine should be practiced,” said Dr. Gary Griffin, a retired pediatrician who trained in residency under Dr. Westmark and grew to consider him a mentor and friend. “Dr. Westmark was the kindest Southern gentleman, the father of our Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and a credit to healthcare and to Sacred Heart.”

A Pensacola native, Dr. Westmark graduated from Pensacola High School and received his bachelor’s degree from Tulane University. He spent four years as a pilot and instructor for the U.S. Air Force before attending medical school, and he remained in the U.S. Air Force Reserves for eight years while in medical school and beginning his early practice.

Dr. Westmark was a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics and participated in professional organizations such as the Escambia County Medical Society, the Florida Medical Association, the American Medical Association and the Florida Society of Neonatal Perinatologists.

Dr. Jimmy Jones, a retired pediatric surgeon who worked with Dr. Westmark for decades, described him as “quiet, gentle, courteous, caring, knowledgeable and a visionary.”

“Ed Westmark was a quiet, gentle physician who never raised his voice,” Dr. Jones said. “He would listen and then quietly do what was right for his patients and the hospital. Medicine has change a lot since Ed began, but it is physicians like him who, with tenacity, have made things better for our smallest patients.”

Considered a mentor, friend and teacher and referred to affectionately by his staff as "Uncle Ed," Dr. Westmark will be greatly missed at Sacred Heart Hospital and by the  generations of families he served. As one of The Children’s Hospital’s founders, Dr. Westmark’s portrait is displayed in the hospital lobby, along with Dr. Reed Bell, Dr. John Whitcomb and Sr. Carol Keehan.

The Studer Family Children’s Hospital at Sacred Heart is a 117-bed facility that serves as the only children’s hospital in Northwest Florida. The Children’s Hospital offers a wide range of services to meet all of a child’s medical needs, from a pediatric emergency room and neonatal intensive care unit to pediatric intensive care, cancer care, rehabilitation and a medical staff of more than 120 board-certified physicians across 29 pediatric specialties. The Children’s Hospital provides quality, compassionate care to children, regardless of their parents’ ability to pay. For more information about the services available at The Studer Family Children’s Hospital at Sacred Heart, visit www.sacred-heart.org/childrenshospital.

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