When Dr. Warren Warwick first started working with cystic fibrosis patients in the 1960s, they often would die in childhood.
Today they can live beyond their 50s, and many credit Warwick for his advances in treatment and understanding of the disease.
"Dr. Warwick is one of many individuals, but certainly someone who deserves credit for much of the improvement in increased longevity," said Dr. Antoinette Moran, chief of the pediatric endocrinology and diabetes division at the University of Minnesota Medical School. "Those adults that we have now in their 50s, 60s and 70s [with cystic fibrosis] are certainly getting excellent adult care, but the fact that they are alive now is because of the unusual and it turned out correct approach that Warren Warwick was taking."
Warwick died Feb. 15 in St. Paul. He was 88.
From 1962 to 1999, he led the cystic fibrosis program at the university, retiring from the medical school in 2011. The program gained national attention in 2004 when Dr. Atul Gawande, a surgeon and bestselling author, highlighted it in a New Yorker magazine article as the nation's best for patients with the disease, a genetic disorder that damages the lungs and other organs.
Cystic fibrosis patient "longevity here at the University of Minnesota has consistently been at least a decade longer than anyone else in the world," Moran said.
Warwick developed a compression vest that cystic fibrosis patients use to clear mucus from their lungs, helping them stay healthy and giving them the ability to live independently. "He partnered with industry at a time when few people were doing that to really come up with the best product and now every CF patient in the developed world has a vest," Moran said.
It was just one of many advancements that he pioneered. "He was just constantly pushing to know more and learn more so he could extend the lives of his patients," she said. "He was a visionary leader."
Apart from his innovations, Warwick dedicated a lot of time to his patients and their families. Sue Severson, a registered nurse and colleague, said, "He'd routinely take 45 minutes with patients and really go over the meds with them and give them new ideas in ways that they could be more successful."
Severson said Warwick emphasized collaboration at work. "He was a very kind person, never really showing anger, and he wanted everybody to get along, to do their best and to be their best," she said.
"He was not a man who sought the limelight," said colleague Dr. David Cornfield, a pediatric pulmonologist at Stanford School of Medicine in California. "He was dramatically more about substance than style."
"Warren's greatest contribution was really born out of his incredible persistence," said Cornfield. "He had patience and persistence and a commitment to focus that was far more durable than most."
Warwick also "always had time for family," said his daughter Marion Warwick.
"He read us stories when we were little, and throughout was very interested in anything we wanted to talk about," she said. "He was always ready to help and encourage us."
Even years after he retired, patients would express gratitude for his care.
"We would be taking a walk and people would come out of the blue," Marion said. "We went to a store in Duluth and the clerk burst into tears and said, 'Dr. Warwick, you're my doctor.' "
In addition to Marion, Warwick is survived by his wife, Henrietta, and another daughter, Anne Warwick. Both daughters are physicians. Services have been held.