Born in Council Bluffs, Iowa, Patrick Edgar Brookhouser, MD, grew up in Missouri Valley, Iowa, where he graduated valedictorian from the local high school. His intellect and natural curiosity earned him numerous academic awards, and he graduated from Creighton University summa cum laude and from Johns Hopkins Medical School as a member of Alpha Omega Alpha.
In 1972, Pat and his new wife, Judy, returned to Omaha with their young family and a vision for a research hospital focused on pediatric communication disorders. Pat made this vision a reality by creating Boys Town National Research Hospital (BTNRH), which is now located on two Omaha campuses where more than 40,000 children received care in 2010.
As much joy as Pat derived from treating children with communicative disorders, his real passion was conducting research in this area. Thirty-eight years later, Pat’s dream is a research powerhouse with 19 independent laboratories, 22 PhD researchers, and nearly $7 million in funding, primarily from the National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation, which ranks it among the top 10 in children’s hospital funding.
BTNRH has received over $150 million in research funding since opening its doors in 1977. Pat’s tireless energy and passion for BTNRH shows in the fact that he was working on plans for a neurobehavioral center at Boys Town at the time of his death.
As much as Pat thrived in his profession, he was the consummate family man, and the loving stories his children (Pat Jr. and twins Debbie and David), stepchildren (Walter and Mary) and grandchildren (Pat III and Megan) told during Pat’s wake were so very touching.
Pat was incredibly proud of his children and their accomplishments. The children regaled the attendees with family stories, including one about Pat periodically marching the kids to a neighboring graveyard to visit and remember the family’s ancestors.
Pat was absolutely devoted to Judy, and her death in 2008 after a long illness was a severe emotional blow. Fortunately, Maria came into Pat’s life, and many of his colleagues commented that it was like he had found a new lease on life. Maria and Pat traveled the world, living life to the fullest.
Pat’s father had died at age 61, and Pat viewed every day of his life beyond 61 as a gift that he savored with passion.
Pat was truly a unique person, an outstanding physician and researcher who simultaneously managed an increasingly complex organization. His managerial and leadership skills are legendary. When Pat became the Triological Society’s executive secretary in 1997, he moved the dysfunctional St. Louis Triological office to Omaha, where he established the professional team that serves the Society so well today. In 2005, he became president of the Triological Society and in 2009, received the prestigious Triological Society Gold Medal for all of his service to the Society and the specialty.
Pat was the kindest of souls who gave unselfishly to the specialty, his friends and his patients. Another of his wonderful qualities was his modesty: Despite the fact that Pat was so successful in many diverse activities, he never sought the limelight.
Like so many of his friends and colleagues, I will miss Pat greatly. His upbeat personality and willingness to embrace and support new ideas are attributes for which all of us should strive.
Memorials can be made to the Boys Town National Research Hospital.