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Year : 2020  |  Volume : 15  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 166-167

James Goodrich: A personal tribute

Consultant Neurosurgeon, Park Clinic 4, Gorky, Terrace, Kolkata, West Bengal, India

Date of Submission11-May-2020
Date of Acceptance03-Jun-2020
Date of Web Publication30-Jun-2020

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Sandip Chatterjee
Consultant Neurosurgeon, Park Clinic 4, Gorky, Terrace, Kolkata, West Bengal.
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/jpn.JPN_143_20

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How to cite this article:
Chatterjee S. James Goodrich: A personal tribute. J Pediatr Neurosci 2020;15:166-7

How to cite this URL:
Chatterjee S. James Goodrich: A personal tribute. J Pediatr Neurosci [serial online] 2020 [cited 2022 Jul 5];15:166-7. Available from: https://www.pediatricneurosciences.com/text.asp?2020/15/2/166/288303

It is rare to find in a neurosurgeon the qualities of being an excellent operator, a perfect communicator, a philosopher, historian, art collector, collector of books, and connoisseur of wines, but this would sum up the qualities which James Goodrich had. Born on April 16, 1946, Jim did his undergraduate training in the University of California, Irvine, and completed his graduate work at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences of Columbia University receiving a Masters and a Doctorate of Philosophy. He received his doctorate in Medicine from the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City. His residency years were spent at the Presbyterian Hospital in New York City and at the New York Neurological Institute. In the post-residency years, Jim served in the US Army in Vietnam and the violence there left a deep impression on his mind, something which he was to talk about somewhat emotionally during the International Society for Pediatric Neurosurgery (ISPN) meeting in Birmingham, UK last year as the President’s Guest.

My first prolonged interaction with Jim was during the Asia-Australasian Course in Pediatric Neurosurgery in Bangalore in 2009. I remember Jim turning around and saying to me, “Why is your Indian food so hot? Do you guys want us to starve?” and I remember explaining to him that spices were preservatives and the hotter the climate, the hotter the food! In 2016 he visited Kolkata and came to my home, and remembered my remark in Bangalore 7 years previously, and said to me, “Your home food is not hot at all, my dear fellow! Is it because Kolkata is colder than Bangalore?” That was Jim- amazing memory for small details, with ability to strike a personal chord with every one he associated with!

Of course over the years, particularly being Faculty at various Courses together round the world, we would have so much time to interact with each other, professionally as well as socially, sometimes beyond twilight hours. Ten years ago he would say, “Sandip where are you going? The date on my watch has just changed!” with a not-well disguised displeasure at my leaving early as I had four talks to give the next day! More recently, he would stand up at midnight and proclaim to us all, “Children, it’s my bed time now. You may carry on!” in what was a poignant reminder about his age and seniority. Neither of these were obvious in his interactions with us, most of whom were well junior to him! In fact I remember him climbing effortlessly down into the caldera of a volcano in Bandung when four of us had escaped from the Asia-Australasian Course in Bandung! He asked me in a low whisper, what we were planning to do the next morning and I said we were planning a trip to the volcano early morning so that we were not much missed during the lectures! “I believe it’s a steep climb down and up” said I in a veiled endeavour to dissuade him from coming, and he looked at me in the eyes and said, “So?” Jim descended down that crater, all four miles of it, faster than most of us!

At the time of his sudden demise, Jim was the director of the Division of Pediatric Neurosurgery at the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore, Montefiore Medical Centre, Bronx, New York, and held the academic rank of Professor of Clinical Neurosurgery, Pediatrics, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. He has authored or edited eight textbooks devoted to craniofacial surgery (his first love!), brain tumors, spinal dysraphism, head trauma, skull base surgery and pediatric neurosurgery, and this itself speaks of the versatility of the man! I have had the good fortune to contribute chapters to one of his books as well.
After the dinner in the Course with the Faculty

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In a pensive mood in a tour during the ESPN Course in Italy

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Jim loved teaching. He was a world leader in developing hands-on courses and workshops to teach about craniofacial surgery, endoscopic procedures, and drilling techniques. He ran over 70 courses in Asia, Europe, Africa, and South America. Yet his method of teaching was direct and straight. Once in a while when my lecture had been somewhat pedantic, he would say to me, “That’s an awful lot to say to the trainees!” and smile, a smile which has enchanted so many neurosurgeons around the world and endeared Jim to them!

His separation of a number of craniopagus twins won him international acclaim, and he was awarded the “Mayor’s Award in Science and Technology” in New York City. Indeed Jim was an advisor for the surgery of the twins separated at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) about a year ago. Jim was awarded a Doctorate of Science by the College of Mount St Vincent, Riverdale, New York. In December of 2009, the Burdenko Neurological Institute awarded him an Honorary Doctorate in Neurosurgery. He was also the Bhagwati orator for 2019.

Jim was a true connoisseur of wines and whisky. During Courses when we were together for at least 3–4 times every year, at lunch time, he would look at me and say, “I guess these guys have not heard of a bottle of Beaujolais or Pinot Noir?” And if the host had indeed heard of these wines, and could bring them out of his stock, Jim was the happiest man in the Universe! Talking of wines, he often asked me why I had never accepted his invitation to spend a weekend at his home and sample some of his few hundred bottles of wine, and I never had an answer to this. Sorry Jim, it was just never destined to happen!

My greatest regret is that this February we had a meeting of the Indian Society of Pediatric Neurosurgery in Kolkata, with a lot of friends from round the planet, and Jim politely asked me whether I wanted him there. I said “No, because you will not come twice to India in one year, and I want you as Faculty for the ISPN Course in Bangalore in mid July.” He called up that same weekend to say that he wanted to come, but that weekend he had a teaching commitment and could come if we changed our dates by a week! Which I did, but alas Jim could not keep his word. Today the Course itself is cancelled, perhaps as a silent tribute to the most colorful personality who was supposed to have been present!

Jim’s life was as complete as a neurosurgeon’s life can be. It showed us all that there is so much in life to learn and know about, and while we may mourn the loss of a dear friend, we have to celebrate the colorful completeness of a life truly well spent on this planet!


  [Figure 1], [Figure 2]


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