For this alum, age is no obstacle

“I asked what would happen if I die before the research is over. They said, ‘We’ll try to find out where you are and sue you.’ ”
—Dr. Gordon Maurice

With some amusement, Dr. Gordon L. Maurice (’40, Chem) describes the call he received last year from the Canadian National Heart Institute. Canadian health officials wanted him—at age 83—to be a primary investigator in a four-year international study on congestive heart failure treatments.

No matter that he retired from his cardiology practice 17 years ago and works in clinical research only three days a week. The Canadians knew Maurice had spent more than 35 years in Portland, Oregon, researching cardiovascular diseases.

In 1965, Maurice launched the Providence Portland Medical Center’s cardiovascular research department, today known as the Earle A. Chiles Research Institute. The institute now does additional research in oncology and other fields.

With Maurice as a key leader, the heart research group participated in several major studies at the request of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, including significant research on the use of beta-blockers after heart failures.

“This is the first time we have been asked to do a study by another country,” says Maurice. “I asked, ‘do you have any idea how old I am?’ They said, ‘Yes.’ ”

“I asked what would happen if I die before the research is over. They said, ‘We’ll try to find out where you are and sue you.’ ”

“They picked only those [research] clinics in the United States that had extensive studies,” says Maurice, adding that the Canadian study selected only 15 U.S. clinics and involves 1,500 patients in this country, Canada, and Europe. “It’s a prestigious study.”

Dr. Frank D. McBarron, a Chiles Institute co-director with Maurice and lifelong research partner, describes his colleague as a “wonderful clinician and teacher.”

According to McBarron, Maurice helped found what became the most prestigious heart and lung care center in Portland-Vancouver: the Thoracic Clinic, now the Thoracic Division of The Oregon Clinic, a private corporation that does work at Providence.

“He’s had a significant body of research in his life. He’s an amazing worker,” says McBarron. “By the time I met him in 1959, he was one of four or five of the most prominent active cardiologists in the Northwest.”

The Canadian study will compare two methods for treating congestive heart failure complicated by arrhythmia. One method tries to control the heart rate. The other attempts to restore normal heart rhythm with medication and/or electric charge.

“We think—but we don’t know—that trying to restore the heart rhythm may be more beneficial,” Maurice adds. He will interview patients in Portland and give routine exams, although Oregon Clinic cardiologists handle overall care.

Maurice knows about heart failure personally. Several years ago, he had coronary bypass surgery. With angioplasty treatment and a pacemaker, he’s been free of cardiac symptoms for some time.

Being a doctor was a childhood dream of Maurice’s after he spent a year in treatment for tuberculosis. He was Phi Beta Kappa at WSC and graduated with honors before entering the University of Oregon Medical School. A World War II veteran, he did his residency in internal medicine and worked with pulmonary diseases, but cardiology became his major focus. He retired in 1984 after 20 years at Providence, where he participated in Oregon’s first open-heart surgery in June 1960 and helped design a heart/lung machine.

Maurice also served as a clinical professor at Oregon Health Sciences University, formerly the University of Oregon Medical School.

A dedicated family man, Maurice loves to golf with his 12-year-old grandson. He and his wife of 57 years, Dorothy, have four children, 14 grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.