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Creighton Professor and Omaha Cardiology Pioneer Dies

Richard W. Booth, M.D., professor emeritus of medicine and founder of the Cardiac Center at Creighton University, died May 24 at the age of 90 in Omaha, Neb. Booth's visionary leadership truly changed the map of cardiology at Creighton, in Omaha and throughout the region.

Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, Booth studied pre-medicine at Xavier University before joining the United States Signal Corps in 1943. Following the war, he finished his studies at Xavier, earned his medical degree from the University of Cincinnati School of Medicine, and completed an internship at the University of Wisconsin and a National Heart Institute residency at the University of Cincinnati. He then became a cardiology fellow and professor of medicine at Ohio State University before accepting a job to open the region's first cardiology department at Creighton University in 1961.

Soon after arriving in Omaha, Booth and Vincent Runco, M.D., founded the Cardiac Center at Creighton University - with Booth taking the helm as chief of cardiology for the center's first 10 years. His impact at the new center was felt almost immediately when, in 1962, he partnered with then-Bell Labs in New Jersey to establish data-phone lines at the Cardiac Center to allow cardiologists to interpret EKGs remotely. Previous practice required hospitals to mail EKGs causing critical delays in patient care.

"That absolutely revolutionized [EKG transmits]," Booth said in a 2011 retrospective in Creighton University Magazine. "Bell Labs had no idea this was going to be such a popular machine so they had to gear up to make them. In our best years, we were taking in 100,000 (EKGs via data-line) and we extended all the way from Wyoming to Illinois, from the Canadian border well into Kansas."

Over the years, Booth's work led to numerous "firsts," including the opening of Nebraska's first coronary intensive care unit, the region's first outpatient catheterization lab and the region's first freestanding facility dedicated to outpatient cardiac care. He served as vice president of the American Heart Association in 1974 and was a contributor to the organization's journal, Circulation. And during Booth's 25-year stint as senior vice president of medical affairs and medical director for then-St. Joseph Hospital, he oversaw the building of a brand new state-of-the-art hospital on North 30th Street in 1978, now known as Alegent Creighton Health Creighton University Medical Center.

Beyond the brick-and-mortar, one of Booth's most enduring legacies will be his commitment to training compassionate, patient-focused cardiologists. The Cardiology Fellowship program, which he founded with a National Institutes of Health grant in 1964, has trained more than 150 cardiology fellows - many of whom continue to work in the region today.

After ending his teaching career, Booth was promoted to professor emeritus in 1996. In 2005, an endowed fund was established in his name to support faculty research and education related to the cardiovascular health of the community Creighton serves. The first holder of the Richard W. Booth Endowed Professorship in Cardiology, Syed Mohiuddin, M.D., was also one of Booth's first cardiology fellows - a testament to the quality of physicians enrolled in the program.

Booth was preceded in death by his first wife, Catherine Ballman. He is survived by wife LeAnn; three children and seven grandchildren: Patrick and Judy Booth (Stuart, Richard and Catherine), Mars and Brent Booth-Malnack (Alex and Katryna), and Michelle and Dave Amsden (Kristin and Ariel); sister, Audrey Booth Cullen, and her husband Joseph and their three children (Debbie, Jody and Mike); a nephew, Paul Dumont; and extended family: Loni Meyer (Dewey) and family; Nan Birkemeier (Gary) and family; and Gay Dahlke (Paul) and family.