Galen Strohm Wagner, Who Helped Establish the Duke Databank for Cardiovascular Disease, Dies Age 76

Galen S. Wagner, MD, the former director and co-founder of the Duke Cardiac Care Unit, has died.

Wagner helped develop key programs at Duke University including the Duke Databank for Cardiovascular Disease—the precursor for the renowned Duke Clinical Research Institute. He most recently served as an associate professor of Medicine (Cardiology) at the university.

According to Joseph Rogers, MD, Interim Chief of the Division of Cardiology at Duke University School of Medicine, the entire Duke campus flew their flags at half-mast in Wagner’s honor.

"He made very important contributions to clinical cardiology throughout his storied career, but the thing that I think people will remember Galen for the most were his efforts around education and mentoring. And Galen was without equal,” Rogers told TCTMD. “And that's the thing, I think, as we reflect back on Galen, that will be the thing he is remembered for the most.”

Indeed, Robert Harrington, MD (Stanford University, CA), one of Wagner’s former colleagues told TCTMD: “His passion for mentorship and for research fellows was contagious and greatly influenced all of us who were [and] are at Duke in terms of our own personal commitment to mentorship.”

Wagner spent his entire career at Duke University, where he started as a 17-year-old undergraduate student in 1957 after leaving his childhood home in central Pennsylvania. He did both his bachelors and medical degrees at Duke.

His passion for mentoring others led him to help shape the Duke University Cooperative Cardiovascular Society, which still helps foster professional connections between current and former faulty members and fellows.

In a statement released to faculty and staff at Duke University School of Medicine, Dean Nancy C. Andrews, MD, PhD, recognized those leadership skills. “Dr. Wagner may be remembered most for his love of mentoring young people,” she said. “He was well-known for bringing out the best in others, serving as a guide for high school students, undergraduate students, medical students, residents, fellows, and junior and senior faculty.”

Wagner was, himself, mentored by Duke’s Eugene Stead Jr, MD, under whom he served as a resident. According to Harrington, Wagner carried on Stead’s work.

“Galen for many of us was in many ways the spiritual connector back to the vision of Gene Stead in how computers and aggregated data could provide clinicians tremendous insights into how to care for patients with coronary disease based on this aggregated information,” Harrington said.

“His other main influence at Duke was in the creation and nurturing of the Duke fellows’ society. This too built on the Stead concept of a ‘university without walls.’ Duke Cardiology’s connection to an enthusiastic group of former fellows remains one of the great hallmarks of the Duke training program.”

Additionally, Wagner authored Marriott’s Practical Electrocardiography 11th edition and Dynamic Practical Electrocardiography: A Virtual Clinic and Classroom. He was also the co-editor of Cardiac Arrhythmias: A Practical Guide for the Clinician and editor-in-chief of the Journal of Electrocardiology.

Wagner’s commitment to training the next generation of cardiologists will long be remembered, according to David Kandzari, MD (Piedmont Heart Institute, Atlanta, GA), who did both his general and interventional cardiology fellowships at Duke.

“Galen was a phenomenal mentor to many young cardiologists at Duke,” he said. “He was a great instructor, someone who would always drop what he was doing if you came to him with a question.” 

Galen passed away early Wednesday morning. “[It’s] a really sad day for those of us who spent any time at Duke, especially those of us who were fellows in the Duke Databank for Cardiovascular Disease,” Harrington said.

A reception for Wager is planned for 11:00 Saturday, July 16, at the Sarah Duke Gardens. The family plans to schedule a memorial service at a later date.

Michael H. Wilson is the 2016 recipient of the Jason Kahn Fellowship in Medical Journalism.


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