UPDATE: In memoriam: Basil A. Pruitt Jr., M.D.
Funeral services for Dr. Pruitt will be at 11 a.m., Monday, April 8, at the Alamo Heights United Methodist Church, 825 E. Basse Road, San Antonio.
The family requests that donations in memory of Dr. Pruitt be directed to Texas Burn Survivor Society,
8531 N. New Braunfels, Suite 204, San Antonio, TX 78217.
Basil A. Pruitt Jr., M.D., FACS, a renowned surgeon known as one of the founding fathers of modern trauma and burn medicine, died March 17. He was 88.
Dr. Pruitt was commander and director of the U.S. Army Institute for Surgical Research (USAISR) at Fort Sam Houston for 27 years before joining UT Health San Antonio in 1995 as a clinical professor of surgery.
He had previously served in Vietnam during the Tet Offensive of 1968, where he performed surgery at the 12th Evacuation Hospital, the busiest medical facility in the war.
Innovations he led at the USAISR resulted, over the last half-century, in a dramatic improvement in the survival of patients with severe burns. In 1959, a patient with burns over 43 percent of the body had a 50 percent chance of surviving. Today, the same patient’s survival chances have improved to more than 75 percent.
“Dr. Pruitt had a major and sustained international impact on the fields of surgery, burn care, trauma and critical care,” said Ronald M. Stewart, M.D., professor and chair of surgery. “His contributions in these fields were transformational and directly led to dramatic improvements in patient care marked by improved survival, decreased complications and improved health.”
Dr. Pruitt was a great educator of other surgeons. Forty-six surgeons he mentored became directors of burn centers and 11 became presidents of the American Burn Association.
A 1952 graduate of Harvard, Dr. Pruitt received his M.D. degree in 1957 from the Tufts University School of Medicine. After starting a surgery residency in Boston, he was drafted in 1959 and assigned to the U.S. Army Institute for Surgical Research in San Antonio. He completed his residency at Brooke Army Medical Center in 1964 and served 31 years with the institute.
Dr. Pruitt served on 11 editorial boards, including associate editor and editor of the Journal of Trauma for 37 years and retains the title of editor emeritus. He also has served on the NIH Surgery, Anesthesia, and Trauma Study Section; the V.A. Merit Review Board for Surgery; and the Shriners Hospitals Research Advisory Board.
His awards and honors were numerous. In 2008 he was the co-winner of the King Faisal International Prize for Medicine, which he received in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. He received the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2015 from AMSUS, the Society of Health Professionals, and in 2018 he was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award from Biomed SA.
“For all the patients who will be treated at a burn center or trauma center today, this week and into the future:the care of each and every one of these patients has been impacted and improved through the lifetime work of Dr. Basil A. Pruitt, Jr.,” Dr. Stewart said.