In Memoriam

Robert Campbell, Jr, MD
1951 - 2018

Robert "Bob" Campbell, Jr. passed away peacefully on July 29th, 2018 surrounded by family. Though he battled illness for years, Bob was a true warrior for his family and patients, working until a few days before his death. Bob's innovative thought-leadership and inventions changed the world's approach to caring for children with complex, life-threatening spine and chest wall deformities. Bob was raised in Nashville, TN, graduating from Father Ryan High School then enrolling at Vanderbilt University where he played football ("I was the smallest linebacker in the SEC"). He transferred to Johns Hopkins, graduating with a BS in engineering. After Georgetown Medical School, he completed his orthopaedic residency at Fitzsimmons Army Medical Center in Aurora, CO, then did the pediatric orthopedic fellowship at A.I. DuPont Hospital under the tutelage of G. Dean McEwen.
Bob began his career at Christus Santa Rosa Children's Hospital/UT San Antonio, and was recruited in 2008 to grow CHOP's Thoracic Insufficiency program. In 2009, Bob launched CHOP's Center for Thoracic Insufficiency (CTIS), attracting infants and children from around the world, many of whom were told "nothing can be done". He created a team approach to care, collaborating closely with pulmonologists, thoracic surgeons, intensivists and radiologists to optimize treatment of children with severe spine and chest wall deformities. Bob invented the VEPTR device, taking a customized solution for a single child in San Antonio in desperate need of chest wall support through conceptualization, fabrication, testing and the arduous regulatory pathways of the FDA. His invention became the standard of care throughout the world for children with severe deformities of the spine and chest, saving or extending the lives of children with previously untreatable conditions. Bob travelled worldwide, training surgeons to treat thoracic insufficiency and assisting them with their most difficult cases.
One of the least heralded contributions Dr. Campbell made to the field of pediatric surgical care was to facilitate new device development through his involvement with the FDA. Dr. Campbell leveraged the relationships he built at the FDA to foster countless other devices through the regulatory process. In recent years, the regulatory approval processes have eased considerably, paving the way for a new wave of pediatric implants to help children; this is in no small part due to Bob's work and influence. His patients' families know him for his unwavering devotion to their child's care; the large yearly reunion of CTIS families at CHOP is a testament to impact he has had on so many.
Bob will be dearly missed by his family, patients and colleagues, but he has left a lasting legacy through his ideas, inventions, and the many surgeons and physicians he trained.