Robert E. Edgar, M.D., Senior Neurosurgical Consultant to Craig Hospital and in private neurosurgical practice at Swedish Hospital, Englewood, Colorado, passes into Heaven on 11/23/2020 embraced with his wife at their home on Flathead Lake, Montana.
Robert Earl Edgar was born on August 10th, 1930 at their home in Princeton, Indiana to Robert Matthew (Mac) and Mamie Ida Francis Edgar and older brother, Charles. To their surprise, Donald, his fraternal twin was born 20 minutes later. And of note, both became prominent physicians. Charles suffered from bulbar poliomyelitis and passed in his early thirties. This prophetically resonated with Bob his entire life. He considered his mother saint-like and his father, boiler-maker’s assistant on the night shift with the Southern RR, a kind man filled with integrity and honesty, which proved to be Bob, as well.
Graduating from Princeton High School and Indiana University on the Bloomington campus, then, with a medical degree and internship at Indiana University Medical School in Indianapolis. Dr. Edgar completed his neurosurgery residency at Indiana University Medical School, The National Institute of Neurological Disease and Blindness in Bethesda, Maryland and the University of Iowa Medical School in Iowa City, Iowa. Dr. Edgar practiced at the University of California Medical School at San Francisco, University of Wisconsin Neurosurgical Department and finally completing three years of University Fellowship at Rose General Hospital/University of Colorado Medical Center before he officially went into neurosurgical private practice in Englewood, Colorado in 1964. He served as an adjunct professor at the Colorado School of Veterinary Medicine in Fort Collins, Colorado.
Dr. Edgar was a pioneer in the specialized area that he coined, “Rehabilitative Neurosurgery”. “One of the real advantages Craig has enjoyed over the years is the dedication of a surgeon like Dr. Edgar”, said Daniel P. Lammertse, M.D., in 1993 at the time of Dr. Edgar’s retirement. “Having a neurosurgeon as Dr. Edgar, who has been willing to focus his career goals to meet the special needs of our patients, was critical to our development of a national referral base. We are still seeing the benefits of having a neurosurgeon with an International reputation as a leader in Rehabilitative Neurosurgery.”
Dr. Edgar’s list of clinical accomplishments is a long one. He refined the treatment of cystic myelopathy (PPCM) starting when there were only seven documented cases in the world literature and defined the treatment of noncystic (which Dr. Edgar named Progressive Posttraumatic Noncystic Myelpathy -PPNM) myelopathies to their current state-of-the-art. He also refined the treatment of chronic central deafferentation pain in spinal cord injury with his development of the Computer Assisted Dorsal Root Entry Zone (calling it CA’DREZ) Microcoagulation procedure. Dr. Edgar developed several original neurological surgeries. He was instrumental in obtaining the first CAT scan in the Rocky Mountain West (at Swedish), then one of the first MRI’s via his cystic myelopathy work. In addition, Dr. Edgar has been on the forefront of treatments for spasticity including Percutaneous Thermal Rhizotomy and Selective Microrootlet Section.
For over the last decade before his retirement, Dr. Edgar had been a Visiting Professor of Neurosurgery at the University of Miami Medical School and served on the Scientific Advisory Board of the Miami project to Cure Paralysis. He served on a similar advisory board for the National Paraplegic Foundation in Dallas, Texas. Dr. Edgar served on the Board of Directors of the American Spinal Injury Association (ASIA) for 6 years. He has won many awards and honors during his long and beloved neurosurgical career, including the National Gill Moss Award for spinal cord injury care from the National Spinal Cord Injury Association, the Knight Rider Lectureship Award from the University of Miami, and was the John Young Lectureship Presenter at Craig Hospital, receiving the John Young Award in 1989 from Dr. Young himself, an invaluable honor to Bob.
Dr. Edgar was the founder and chairman of the Swedish Medical Center – Porter Hospital Neurosensory Department and co-founder of the Swedish Medical Center Neurotrauma Unit, later renamed the SMC Multitrauma Unit. He established the Craig Neuroscience Laboratory and the concept of rehabilitative neurosurgery at Craig Hospital. He served as a neurosurgical consultant to the ICBC (Insurance Corporation of British Columbia) in Vancouver, BC, Canada and was invited to Medtronics’ headquarters in Minneapolis, Minnesota for his input on spinal stimulators. In addition to publishing a number of new scientific articles and the innovation of several new neurologic surgeries, Dr. Edgar was a Visiting Neurosurgical Professor and Guest Lecturer to many spinal cord injury centers/medical centers in the United States and the world including Stoke-Mandeville in England, the Karolinska Institut in Stockholm, Sweden, Mexico, Scotland, China, Saudi Arabia, and Canada.
Upon his retirement Dr. Edgar said, “It has been a privilege to help ease, if only in a small way, the plight of people with spinal cord injuries. I want to express my gratitude to all my patients for enriching my life with their kindness, love, laughter and tears.” As well he thanked his many remarkable colleagues especially the Craig CNS physicians/staff. Bob described himself as just another cog in the medical wheel needing all disciplines coming together to make a smooth running ‘patient care’ wheel, his medical philosophy being always: ‘patient first’.
Bob’s other love was his wife, Peg, married April 22, 1993.
Bob and Peggy chose to retire north rather than south to the last best place, Montana!
They loved their life on Flathead Lake. Glacier-Waterton International Peace Park was their backyard and one of their favorite places in the world. Together, they rescued and adopted many special, furry children.
“Another day in Paradise!”, Bobber would say as we woke up smiling and onto another day of loving life. My husband was the epitome of good medicine. His love, laughter, wisdom, humor, grit, grace, gratitude and generosity defined Bob until his last breath.
Bob’s passions and interest were as diverse as many. A voracious reader his entire life, never forgetting anything he read, he was virtually a ‘Walking Wikipedic’. Bob loved to think and build a better mousetrap. We loved traveling within Montana where we could take our dogs and throughout the United States and world exploring and enjoying nature, cultures, their cuisines, music, art, history, birds, wildlife, always an aesthetic who appreciated beauty. And while living in Colorado, retreated to his horse ranch where he bred (with his gene theory) and raised champion Morgan horses introducing the breed to England. Bob was a talented artist, loving to ambidextrously draw, paint, sculpt as he literally and figuratively whistled while he worked and played. We’d be outside whenever possible experiencing and loving Mother Natures’ gifts, smelling our roses. Bobber is and was impossible to capture in words as Bob was huger than life! Bob was blessed with exceptional intelligence and creative powers. He had a magical way of making everything simple and better. Yet humble, as describing himself as that poor boy from Princeton, Indiana as he richly cherished and was ever grateful for his ‘salt of the Earth’ upbringing and of life. Such a perspective to the world through his twinkling, humorous, wise and brilliant eyes! I have been blessed to walk side-by-side with him for almost 40 years in this precious life as my husband, best friend, workmate, playmate… my soulmate - always love and laughter - living in the Company of Eagles!
Bob is proceeded and survived in death by many special family/friends who have and continue to be truly a gift. Unable to thank all the wonderful people in Bob and Peg’s lives, but we especially thank Ron and Elaine Rex, Uncle Eddy and Aunt Jojo Sinning, Dr. Ed James, Dr. William Jobe, Captain Doug Smith and Phil Almon.
Bob is survived by his wife, Peggy (Rex) Edgar, his two children: Robert Carl Edgar and Jamie Elise Edgar; mother-in-law, Virginia Elaine Rex; sisters and brother-in-law, Pam and Mark Hansen, Pat Hacker, Paula Bierman; nieces and nephews, Christopher and Paige Hansen and greats, Bodie, Lia and Jonah Hansen, Heather and Charlie Hopley and greats, Pippa, Charlie and William Hopley, Rachel and Casey Friedrichsen and greats, Evie and Sawyer Friedrichsen, Alison Hansen, Marcus Hansen and fiancé, Kelsey Ahern, Rex and Sammi Reinhardt, Amy and Matt Rutkowski, Kelsey Hacker, Bret Bierman and great, Bree Bierman.
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