James Roberts, MD, Trailblazer in EM, Dies at Age 76

Maiya Focht

August 08, 2022

James (Jim) R. Roberts, MD, whose 45-year career spanned the evolution of the field of emergency medicine (EM) as it grew into the flourishing specialty it is today, died on July 22, 2022, at the age of 76 years. Roberts was co-author of the foundational EM text, Clinical Procedures in Emergency Medicine and Acute Care , and was among the first physicians in the world to be board-certified in EM. He was a prominent member of the American College of Emergency Physicians, a long-time contributor and editorial board chair for Emergency Medicine News, and a founding member of the American College of Medical Toxicology (ACMT). He previously served as chairman of Mercy Catholic Medical Center Emergency Department in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and vice chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia.

James R. Roberts, MD

"Dr Roberts was a prominent EM physician and a pioneer in emergency medicine," said Robert Glatter, MD, assistant professor of emergency medicine at the Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell in New York. "He is a revered and respected figure in emergency medicine." This sentiment was echoed by his colleagues and former students across the EM world.

"How does one describe a unicorn?" Leslie Dye, MD, past president of the ACMT wrote in a tribute to Roberts on the ACMT website. "There are existing words, but he should have words that belong solely to him. Compassionate, irreverent, brilliant, funny, sarcastic, HUMBLE, modest, kind, inquisitive, and one of the best doctors I have ever met." 

By all accounts, Dr Roberts lived his life according to words he wrote in a 2018 column for Emergency Medicine News, "How to Be a Good EP." "Emergency medicine is not just a job, it's a lifestyle, but there is more to life than medicine. You can never make up a missed championship soccer game, anniversary, birthday, or chance to take your son or daughter fishing. In a heartbeat your children will be on their own and will likely have trouble finding time for you. Remember that you might need a shift off someday, so be ready to help a colleague with a similar request."

He is survived by a large extended family, including his daughter Martha, son Matthew, and spouse of more than 40 years, Lydia Forte Roberts.

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