Doctor John Burnum

Doctor John Burnum

In Loving Memory of John Burnum

I had the great pleasure of attending Tuscaloosa High School with John Burnum.
John was a genius in every way.

The Tuscaloosa News

Community mourns loss of well-known doctor

By Jane Self
Features Editor
August 07. 2005 3:15AM

TUSCALOOSA | The medical community of Tuscaloosa is mourning the loss of one of
its most-loved doctors.

Dr. John F. Burnum, 82, died in his sleep early Friday morning, about six weeks
after receiving a pacemaker for his heart.

"Dr. Burnum was a leader in every way and will be sorely missed not only by his
patients, but by his many friends as well," said D.O. McClusky, former
administrator of Druid City Hospital before it became DCH Regional Medical

"Tuscaloosa was fortunate that he came here to practice medicine," he said.

Burnum, a native of Tuscaloosa, returned home after graduating from Harvard
Medical School in the 1950s and started an internal medicine practice. He
quickly established himself as a doctor who really cared about his patients.

"His patients just worshipped him," said his oldest daughter, Susan Burnum Wade,
55. "He really listened to them and he would cry with them. He just treated them
so well."

And that's something she and her two sisters, Celeste and Frances, learned from
their father.

"He treated everyone with dignity and respect," Wade said. "He taught us that."

Wade said her father had an insatiable curiosity about everything and was
particularly committed to fully understanding what his patients' complaints

"Some of the country folks would come in using all kinds of words/sdescribing
their problems, and Daddy would take it all in," she said. "He would look up
words, or he'd make me do research on the root words to get at what they were

"He had to learn all the colloquialisms to get the full picture of his

Burnum taught his students that practice as well.

Credited as one of the people responsible for establishing the College of
Community Health Sciences at the University of Alabama more than 30 years ago,
Burnum retired from private practice in 1999 after 45 years. The next week, he
joined the faculty of CCHS as a full-time professor in the internal medicine
department. He continued working there every day until a few weeks ago when he
was forced to retire because of health problems.

"Without question, he was one of the most brilliant and skilled clinicians I
have ever worked with anywhere," said Dr. Eugene Marsh, interim dean of CCHS.
And he's worked with some of the best doctors in the country at Walter Reed Army
Medical Center in Washington, D.C., and various universities.

"His ability to make a diagnosis without relying on a lot of expensive tests was
incredible," Marsh said.

Former student and then colleague, Dr. Amit Shah, agreed that Burnum was an
amazing clinician.

"He relied on listening and examining the patient. And he felt very strongly
about that. He had an incredible bedside manner," said Shah, assistant professor
of medicine at CCHS.

Shah said he also was impressed with Burnum's work ethic.

"He'd stay at his office until 5 or 6 every night reading articles and textbooks
to stay on top of things. He was such a great teacher, just a great man."

Burnum's appetite for knowledge rubbed off on his family, too. Wade, who also
works in the medical field, called her father a walking book of knowledge.

"He'd give me an article. I would read it, and we'd discuss it," she said. "He
and my mom [Celeste Burnum] both pursued knowledge."

The Burnums even established the Burnum Distinguished Faculty Award at UA to
recognize and promote excellence in research, scholarship and teaching. It has
become the university's highest award in the field.

Stan Bloom grew up with Burnum and said they had always lived close to each
other. They even fought a few miles apart in the Battle of the Bulge during
World War II.

"My wife told me just yesterday that John was her second-favorite man in
Tuscaloosa," Bloom said.

"He was an outstanding person and had a wonderful mind."

Bloom's wife, Star Bloom, said it was a renaissance mind. She met Burnum 44
years ago when he was a groomsman in the Blooms' wedding.

"He was truly incredible," she said. "And he just kept himself so informed "- a
prolific reader and writer."

Wade, who said she never met anyone as witty as her father, thinks his death
reflected his life.

"He had a very peaceful death," she said, "very fitting for a man who gave so
much and treated people with such respect."

Burnum is survived by his wife of 59 years, three daughters and four

A memorial service will be at 4 p.m. Monday at Christ Episcopal Church.

The Tuscaloosa News

We lost a beloved leader in Dr. Burnum
August 09. 2005 3:15AM

Look at almost any photograph of Dr. John F. Burnum and you?re likely to see a
smile -- a broad, warm, inviting smile of a man who thoroughly enjoyed life and
loved people.

He was, in turn, one of the most-loved physicians in our community, which mourns
his death Friday at age 82.

Burnum was a man of many honors, but none summarized his life and career better
than the one he received from the American College of Physicians in 1992 in San
Diego. It was the Ralph O. Claypool Sr. Memorial Award, which honors ?an
outstanding practitioner of internal medicine who has devoted his career to the
care of patients."

He listened, empathized and treated one and all with respect and dignity.

Burnum, a Tuscaloosa native, showed intellectual brilliance as a child, but it
was in World War II, as a member of a combat engineers division in the Battle of
the Bulge who received a Purple Heart, that his humanity flowered. The war
experience led him into medicine. When he set up practice here in 1954, he was
one of a handful of internal medicine physicians in the city. Thanks in large
part to his efforts, the medical community expanded.

Burnum and Dr. Max Moody pioneered the intensive care unit at Druid City
Hospital (now DCH Regional Medical Center). He also was among the people
responsible for establishing the College of Community Health Sciences at the
University of Alabama 30 years ago. Burnum and his wife, Celeste, established
the annual Distinguished Faculty Award, which has become one of the pre-eminent
honors at the university.

A week after he retired from private practice in 1999, he joined the faculty as
a full-time professor of internal medicine. His students worshiped him as much
as his patients.?I think your doctor ought to be your friend," he once told an
interviewer. This community had no better friend than Dr. John Burnum.

Picture of John Burnum - 1940 Tuscaloosa High School Graduating Class


John Burnum and Willis Bidgood prepare to blow up the Chemistry Lab again


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