Dr. “Red” Duke “signs off” for last time at the age of 86

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HOUSTON –  For 40 years, Dr. James “Red” Duke was the face of the UT Health Sciences Center, now known as UTHealth. His nationally syndicated health reports were on the air for 18 years.

He passed away Tuesday at the age of 86.

In 1978, Dr. Duke was one of founders of Memorial Hermann’s Life Flight, the first air ambulance program in Texas, and was the program’s first medical director.

“Dr. Duke didn’t care about achievements or recognition in that regard, said Craig Cordola, regional president for Memorial Hermann Health System. “He was a very humble man who just wanted to make a difference for every individual patient and also the community.”

Dr. Duke was the first surgeon to receive President Kennedy at Parkland Hospital in Dallas on November 22, 1963. He also attended to then-governor John Connally, also wounded by the assassin’s bullet.

Friends and colleagues like Tom Flanagan, Memorial Hermann vice president and chief operating officer say they remember Dr. Duke as a physician who always put the patient first, telling interns, nurses, and staff that the patient is always the most important person in the room.

“And the one thing people need to understand is that when you walked away from any discussion with Dr. Duke, you walked away with a little more wisdom, a little bit more knowledge, and certainly with a whole lot more appreciation and rejuvenation about whatever the topic was.”

Houston and the medical profession have truly lost a legend and a friend.