On Friday, November 12, 2021, Col. Robert L. Watson, M.D., USA, Ret., of Bowling Green, Ky., passed away peacefully at his home in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Dr. Watson is survived by daughters Susan Watson-Spiller and Elizabeth Watson; grandchildren Alex Spiller (Charesse) and Tirsa Lyon (Collin); great-grandson David Lyon; cousins Nancy Purdy and Billy Watson; dear family friend, Kim Jordan and his faithful four-legged companion, Katie. Born on September 1, 1934, to Thomas Garland and Sarah Watson, as a young man, Dr. Watson was guided by his parents to attend high school at Sewanee Military Academy in Sewanee, Tennessee from which he graduated in 1953. Dr. Watson, a true patriot, began his military career in the United States Marine Corps where he served honorably until he was discharged in 1954. A distinguished military graduate of The Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina, he graduated with a Bachelor of Science in 1957. Extremely proud of his school, his wish was to be inurned at the Memorial Bell Tower Columbarium at The Citadel. Dr. Watson received his Doctor of Medicine degree from the Medical College of Virginia in Richmond, Virginia in 1962. He also holds the affiliations of Diplomate of American Board of Anesthesiology (DABA); Fellow of the American College of Cardiology (FACC), Diplomate of the American Academy of Pain Management (DAAPM). Serving a tour of duty in Vietnam where he was Chief of Anesthesia and Operative Service at the 350-bed, 36th Evacuation Hospital at Vung Tau from 1966-1967, Dr. Watson received the Good Samaritan Award for his dedicated and unselfish service in Vietnam from the Citizenship Day Committee for the District of Columbia. While serving in Vietnam, Dr. Watson, the consummate humanitarian, became concerned about the medical needs of nearby wives and children of South Vietnamese soldiers. The government was supposed to provide them with free medical care; however, they were not receiving it. Dr. Watson made it his mission to build a clean clinic, provide a source of potable water, immunize children and find a source of milk by starting a dairy herd. From 1967-1969, Dr. Watson was stationed at Fitzsimmons General Hospital in Denver, Colorado where he was Chief of Anesthesia and Operative Service. Dr. Watson was then stationed at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Washington, D.C. from 1969-1971 where he was Assistant Chief of Anesthesia. In 1973, while stationed at Tripler Army Medical Center, Honolulu, Hawaii, where he was Chief of Anesthesiology and Operative Service, he was assigned to the NASA recovery team for the Skylab and Apollo-Soyuz astronauts and was responsible for the first successful resuscitation of Nitrogen Tetraoxide Pneumonitis resulting from space descent. While Dr. Watson was stationed at Brooke Army Medical Center, Ft. Sam Houston, Texas, he served as Assistant Chief of Anesthesia and Operative Service and Director of Anesthesia Research Lab from 1975-1979. From 1979-1983, Dr. Watson served as Chief of Anesthesiology and Operative Service, as well as Director of the Anesthesiology residency program at Walter Reed Medical Center, Washington, DC. During that time, he was also a Professor and Acting Chairman of the Department of Anesthesiology at the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences (USUHS) in Bethesda, Maryland. Dr. Consultant to the Surgeon General of the United States, Department of the Army from 1980-1983. During his 22-year career in the U.S. Army, Dr. Watson was always active in pain management and developed and staffed the first formal pain clinic at Brooke Army Medical Center from 1977-78 and then the second such program at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in 1979. These clinics served to diagnose and treat military families for pain and to train anesthesia residents in the newly revamped specialty of pain medicine. At that time, to Dr. Watson’s knowledge, there was no formal fellowship training program and no board certifying agencies in pain management. For this reason, Dr. Watson offered his residents who completed a six month or longer rotation through his pain clinic, a letter of recognition of special competence in pain management in lieu of a fellowship certificate but never wrote one for himself. During Dr. Watson’s tour of duty at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and USUHS, he developed policies and procedures for the pain clinic, as well as new drugs and techniques for pain relief. His work in this regard was and continues to be of great benefit to the many wounded servicemen and women and other military patients. Two of those drugs, Duramorph and Infumorph for epidural and spinal injection were researched at his lab at USUHS, first developing a high pressure liquid chromatography assay for spinal morphine and with an FDA approved protocol, was authorized in 1981 for spinal morphine. The FDA approved Duramorph, manufactured by A.H. Robins in 1984 which was used for post-operative pain relief for U.S. President Ronald Reagan. Duramorph is used in the implantable spinal pumps manufactured by Medtronics. For his exemplary research and work, Dr. Watson was awarded the gold medallion from Medtronics in 2011 for his contribution to alleviating pain by biomedical engineering in his development of Duramorph and Infumorph. Dr. Watson retired from the U.S. Army in 1985. Among the many commendations Col. Watson received during his distinguished service are: Vietnam Service Medal; Vietnam Honor Medal, First Class; Vietnam Campaign Medal (Two Stars); Meritorious Unit Citation; Army Commendation Medal; Meritorious Service Medal; and the Legion of Merit for exceptionally meritorious achievement in developing a systematic concept of providing cardiopulmonary resuscitation for use Army-wide. Col. Watson’s extraordinary knowledge and professional judgment were instrumental in the assembly, evaluation, standardization, and acquisition of an effective drug and device kit with ancillary equipment to assure rapid and uniform resuscitation of patients sustaining cardiac arrest. He served as technical advisor in the preparation of an outstanding training program necessary to maintain the highest skill level of Army personnel engaged in cardiopulmonary resuscitation services. From 1985-1989, Dr. Watson was Staff Anesthesiologist and later Chief of the Department of Anesthesia at Humana Women’s Hospital in Tampa, Florida, as well as Medical Director, Adult Respiratory Therapy. In 1989, Dr. Watson was appointed Chief of Anesthesiology at the Medical Center in Bowling Green, Kentucky and retired in 2016. In 2009, he further expanded his pain practices in Bowling Green by developing a pain clinic, IPS (Interventional Pain Specialists). Dr. Watson was also an adjunct professor for the University of Pikeville-Kentucky College of Osteopathic Medicine.
Posted in: Bowling Green Daily News
Posted on: 2021-11-16
Link to original obituary: https://www.bgdailynews.com/obituaries/dr-robert-l-watson/article_8ff5b4d5-0b20-568a-a336-3b5da7f93dcc.html