I first met Don Trunkey when I was a resident in Surgery in Texas. He was a few years older than me, and was always very cordial and gracious. Many aspects of our career were similar. We both did broad based surgery, but had a particular interest in the organization of trauma care. I would not in any way want to infer that my impact in that regard is anywhere near that of Don, but it allowed me to understand the passion he felt for that cause. Through the years, Don was a visitor in Kentucky on numerous occasions. He and Jane were always great friends, and my late wife, Suzanne, really enjoyed them both. She was particularly fond of Jane.
One could look at a curriculum vitae of a person and glean certain things about their life. In reviewing Don’s life accomplishments, there were certainly many. He was a recognized leader of surgical organizations, and I believe if one asked 100 well-informed surgeons with an interest in trauma, “Who was the most influential person in that field in the last 50 years?”, virtually all would have the similar response of Don Trunkey. That is a tremendous legacy for any individual in any field of endeavor.
However, laudable Don’s accomplishments, they really paled beside the enormous personality that he’s always exhibited. To know Don, even casually, was to never forget him. I can remember numerous dinners that we had informally at various meetings, where he would expound on the virtues of some wine he was making or some new food or beverage (usually the alcohol containing-type) that he had recently encountered. This was always delivered with great gusto and bravado. Don and I have both shared an enormous love of learning beyond medicine throughout our lives. We were always sharing book titles with each other about a variety of topics and genres. Truly, Don’s larger than life persona made him, in my mind, even more remarkable than his many accomplishments in the field of surgery.
It is my understanding that Don is not exactly himself today, but I certainly hope he realizes the great affection I have for him personally. I know many of our mutual friends feel the same way. To have known Don through these many years is to have been blessed with his enormous charisma and charm.