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Aubry's 50-year career: 8000 babies, 8000 medical students and the transformation of maternal health care

Dr. Richard Aubry at Upstate, 1963 -2013

Dr. Richard Aubry at Upstate, 1963 -2013

In 1963 — a year before Upstate University Hospital opened — Richard Aubry MD, MPH began his 50+ year career at Upstate. He had been a medical resident and fellow at Upstate prior to joining the Obstetrics and Gynecology faculty in 1963. Over his career, Dr. Aubry oversaw more than 8,000 births and taught obstetrical care to 8,000+ medical students and 200+ residents.

Last summer, Dr. Aubry sent a note to the hospital anniversary committee, sharing his pleasure over the new maternity services available at Upstate, a result of the 2011 merger of  Community-General and Upstate University hospitals.

“Finally, SUNY acquired Community-General‘s OB/newborn unit," he wrote. "Amen, I could finally retire!”

Dr. Aubry did retire in 2013 but, sadly, died a year later. His longtime colleague and friend,  Robert Silverman MD, wrote this tribute, which was first published by the Syracuse Media Group on October 19.

The Upstate New York community has lost one of its most innovative and caring physicians.

Dr. Richard Aubry had an impact on women's health and the care of newborns in ways that most of the public had no idea about unless they crossed his path, and his path was wide. He was one of a handful of physician leaders who developed the modern field of maternal-fetal medicine, a subspecialty that treats complications of mothers and their unborn babies.

He educated countless medical students and resident physicians in the nuances of obstetrical care and how to properly evaluate pregnant women. He took the Syracuse community and brought it to the forefront of medical care in United States, when he developed one of the first regional perinatal centers. The concept is based on the delivery of high-quality medical care for high-risk mothers and babies in centers staffed with subspecialty-trained physicians who could treat complications that in the past often led to death or major disability. His motivation always was to decrease and prevent problems in high-risk mothers and babies. To this day, Upstate New York through its Regional Perinatal Program continues to serve as the model of how centers of excellence can decrease maternal and newborn mortality, even 40 years after its inception.

Dr. Aubry was that rare combination of astute clinician and outstanding educator. He was the author of countless papers that helped to shape public policy in New York and across the country. He developed a model program that brought first-year medical students into the lives of mothers during their children's birth and during their babies' first year of life. He taught several generations of medical students and obstetric/gynecology resident physicians. He loved to see patients and learn about their lives. It was not unusual for him to spend an hour with a patient delving into their medical and social histories, counseling them on their conditions and explaining their treatment options. He served as the district chair for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists helping to direct obstetric care throughout the state.

When Dr. Aubry retired a year ago, I knew that a change in employment would not keep him still. Even in retirement, he worked to further the health of women and children with an expanded role in public health. In many ways, he was busier in retirement than when he was working full time at Upstate Medical University. Retirement allowed him to concentrate on the issues he was most passionate about, to expand his public health presence and help to guide the state in directions he knew were critical to the continued well-being of women and children. He brought enthusiasm and critical thinking into every meeting he attended. Days before his untimely death, he and I were working on grant applications to further the mission of the Maternal and Child Heath Care Center that he founded at Upstate more than 20 years ago. He had energy and drive that many of us hope to have when we reach our eighth decade of life.

Dr. Aubry's footprint was large. He was always working for us, the people of Central New York. On the morning of his death, he was one of several volunteers picking up trash on the side of the road on Interstate 481. He loved doing his little bit for the community. He left to go home and enjoy the Syracuse University football game on the TV. He was happy. The events that followed were tragic. I lost a mentor and a friend. He always helped guide me in my career and served as a sounding board when I became chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. His was the voice of experience and reason. I — like many of my colleagues, his friends and his former patients — will miss him greatly. It was an honor to work with him. He was a true pioneer whose professional dedication and love for patients will be missed.

Drs. Silverman and Aubry

Drs. Silverman and Aubry

Upstate's  RMB Aubrey Motherhood Fund  has been established in honor of Dr. Aubry.