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James David Boyle, M.D. Obituary


On the evening of July 19th, 2012 Los Angeles lost a favorite son, James David Boyle, M.D. David was born September 2nd, 1928 in the midst of the Great Depression to James and Barbara Boyle, a prominent early Los Angeles family. His first family home was on Olympic Blvd. in greater Los Angeles, which at the time was a residential neighborhood lined with trees and grass parks. He was a 4th generation Californian, a rarity at the time, who went on to become a renowned physician who practiced Gastroenterology at the Wadsworth VA, UCLA school of Medicine and the Brotman Memorial Hospital. Known for his brilliance in diagnosis, his medical practice impacted the lives of countless patients, some of who travelled great distances to be treated by him. David excelled in academics and had the talent and discipline to study and master difficult subjects on his own volition and without professional instruction. His autodidactic abilities became apparent at 13 years of age prior to entering Los Angeles High School, when he taught himself chemistry from library books then went on to take the LA County college placement exam normally administered to all graduating seniors; he finished 3rd overall. David’s intellectual history would be woefully incomplete without some mention of his life-long interest in what might be called the "science of thought and general understanding" or, more popularly, "clear, or critical, thinking". Since his early teens he was part of the very broad 20th century intellectual movement in which human perception, knowledge and understanding were now taken to be a scientific subject in itself. This movement, General Semantics, with its many factions, was a wholesale fusion and integration of biology, epistemology, mathematics, neurology, physics, psychiatry, philosophy and even "intellectual ethics"; the practice and habit of being proficient, excellent, in control of and morally responsible for ones belief and thinking habits. David entered Stanford University at the precocious age of sixteen and graduated 3 years later – an accomplishment driven by his academic prowess and the desire to not be drafted into the army being amassed to defend the south pacific at the beginnings of WW II. He earned two master degrees during the next year and at 20 he focused his intellect to pursue a career in medicine, a choice that we should all be thankful for. David went on to attend the USC School of Medicine, although his first choice was Stanford. When he applied there, at age 19, he was informed that he was “too young” and priority would be given to returning veterans. His choice of going to USC School of Medicine instead of Stanford had the fateful impact of returning him to Los Angeles, where classmate Fred Nelson introduced David to his wife’s sister, Virginia Ann Davis. David and Virginia were star-crossed soul mates who later wed on December 20th, 1952 at the Wilshire Methodist Church. They spent their lifetimes together, raising 5 university-educated children all of who went on to lead productive lives as professionals in southern California. Upon graduation, David financed his residency with a tuition grant from the US Health Services. In recompense for this funding he went on to serve as a physician (Captain) in the United States Air Force at both Reese (Texas) and Hamilton (California) Air Forces bases. David originally trained as a Cardiologist and was being sought by top academic institutions in California. Dr. Leo Fred, the Chief of Medicine at VA Wadsworth, was desperately trying to recruit David, but did not have any positions available in Cardiology. What he needed was Gastroenterologists, and he asked David how long it would take him to learn GI medicine. David replied, “4 months”, and during that time he reviewed the entire literature in the field and was subsequently appointed Chief of Staff, a monumental undertaking that normally took years. During that era, the Wadsworth VA was considered to have the best GI program in the United States. David was considered a grand professor of medicine, teaching students, interns and residents at UCLA and Wadsworth Hospitals. He was known in medical circles as a “physician’s physician”, and his practice transitioned into consultative diagnosis where he diagnosed the most difficult cases from other specialists, then recommending the most appropriate treatments for these serious diseases. He was sought by dignitaries, the rich and the famous to treat their afflictions, the most notable including the Shah of Iran upon his migration to the US during in his final years in the late 70’s and Benazir Bhutto, the 11th Prime Minister of Pakistan. While at the VA Wadsworth he has inducted as an officer into the American Gastroenterology Association (AGA) and served as their historian for 15 years. During this time he published a number of oral histories on behalf of the AGA that documented foundational works in the field. One of the most noted was that taken of Dr. Burrill Crohn, the physician who first recognized the autoimmune inflammatory disease syndrome now known as Crohn’s disease. This work helped to teach other specialists in the field the critical aspects of this disease, which is generally considered one of the most difficult diagnoses achieved in the field of medicine. His academic study of gastroenterology led to the publication of over 25 peer-reviewed articles in top journals including the New England Journal of Medicine, although he was considered to contribute to hundreds, perhaps thousands of publications through his research efforts. While at the VA Wadsworth and UCLA School of medicine, David along with his colleague and mentor Dr. Morton Grossman, were instrumental in founding the Center for Ulcer Research, known as CURE. In recent years, David was rewarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Wadsworth Medical Alumni Association. David will be remembered as a family man who balanced his professional life by spending time with his wife and children, who he dearly loved and cherished. He loved to work outdoors in his garden and would spend hours grooming it to perfection. He was an avid reader of books,

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