1. Wenger, Nanette K. MD
  2. Froelicher, Erika Sivarajan RN, MA, PhD

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The Bruce protocol for treadmill exercise stress testing is familiar to health professionals worldwide, most of whom were not privileged to encounter its innovator, Dr Robert A. Bruce, as a teacher or colleague during his many years of distinguished cardiology service at the University of Washington in Seattle.

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A Bostonian by birth, Dr Bruce received his undergraduate training in biology at Boston University (1940) and received both a Master's degree in anatomy and an MD from the University of Rochester in 1943. He completed his residency in medicine as chief resident at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, New York, in 1946, and served on the faculty of the University of Rochester from 1946 to 1950. His studies investigating exercise physiology in health and disease were reported in a series of groundbreaking studies. Delineation of the normal physiologic response to exercise permitted objective ascertainment of exercise-related impairments and exercise-related abnormalities associated with cardiovascular diseases.


In 1950, Dr Bruce was recruited as the first cardiologist and the head of the Division of Cardiology at the University of Washington, where he remained throughout his distinguished career. He rose through the academic ranks to become full professor in 1959. He remained as head of the Division of Cardiology until 1971, when Dr Harold Dodge joined him as co-director. In his role as division chief, Dr. Bruce was an extraordinary teacher and mentor to many cardiology fellows who in their own right became international leaders in cardiology in the United States and overseas. As a mentor, he was always patient and guiding in the most supportive manner. He fostered excellent collaboration between the Division of Cardiology, the School of Nursing, and the physical and psychological sciences on campus. Although Dr. Bruce resigned as co-director of cardiology in 1981 at the mandatory age of 65 years, he remained active academically, publishing more than 40 original articles. The Robert A. Bruce Endowed Chair in Cardiovascular Research was established in 1985.


Dr Bruce's unique contribution to cardiovascular medicine was the development of a procedure to stress the heart with physical activity. Exercise-related electrocardiographic recordings and exercise cardiovascular imaging studies followed. Exercise test results subsequently were documented as having both diagnostic and prognostic value, and as providing the ability to assess the value of medical and surgical interventions.


Dr Bruce died at the age of 87 years after a protracted courageous battle with leukemia. The evening before his death, friends, colleagues, and family gathered at his home to honor him and for the announcement that the new Cardiology Fellow Resource Center would have a plaque honoring him as the first Division Director of Cardiology.


We offer a laudatory memorial. Congratulations Bob for your innovative scientific contributions, for your ongoing advocacy of inquiry, for your mentoring and guidance, for your contributions to the prevention and management of cardiovascular disease, and for your dedication to teaching and training.


Congratulations and thank you, Bob, for your winning smile and steadfast devotion to colleagues, family, and friends. You will be both missed and remembered.