ROBERT BUCKMAN, MD, PHD
August 22, 1948 – October 9, 2011
We all die. The goal isn't to live forever,
the goal is to create something that will.
(American transgressional fiction novelist and freelance journalist)
We are extremely saddened to hear of the untimely death of our dear colleague and friend Dr Robert Buckman whose creativity and skills inspired this website. Rob was a medical oncologist who practiced at Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto Canada and a consultant for I*CARE. He appears in many of the still timely video scenarios which are shown on this web site as examples of skillful communication. Our collaboration began over ten years ago when we traveled to Calgary Canada to produce a DVD entitled "A Practical Guide to Communication Skills in Cancer Care". Afterwards, he regularly came to MD Anderson to help in the production of additional material which illustrates competencies in patient communication including the award winning "Crossroads" video.
Most of all Rob will be remembered as a great friend. He had a huge intellect and great imagination which were always bristling with ideas. His fourteen books and many scientific articles can attest to this. His affability was contagious and he had a keen sense of humor which he wove into his presentations and into the books that he wrote. Rob was a slight man and not always well but he put extraordinary energy into projects he worked on. I think this led to his voracious appetite and the enjoyment of the many meals we had together on his trips to Houston. I will remember him especially for his connection with people; whether it be his patients or appearances on TV or simply someone he would chat with on the elevator. I could write much more...his love for things Italian, his collection of rare books and his penchant for quoting from Dante's inferno. Rob was indeed a remarkable man and died before his time.
Walter F. Baile, M.D.
I had the pleasure of working with Dr. Buckman for the past ten years. He is described as brilliant, kind, and humanistic, yet these terms truly fall short. He was a kind and gentle man who had an extraordinary ability to not just communicate with people, but to truly relate to them. He could make you laugh when you wanted to cry. When my mom had 3 months to live, we met for lunch and he was so kind and supportive, delicately describing to me how it would be. I will never forget the special care he took to help me understand what to expect. I cannot think of him without smiling...his charisma, charm, infectious smile and impish grin. When we filmed him it was amazing to see him transform printed words into something that everyone could relate to. He understood the complications and chaos that cancer can bring into people's lives and he knew how to help people cope with the despair that comes with the perpetual uncertainty that cancer brings to patients, families and healthcare providers.
It was an honor to know him and a great adventure. He made a huge impact not only through his work, but through his friendships. Even though we have suffered a great loss, I find comfort in knowing he has been rewarded for his compassionate work by having a peaceful passing. We have all suffered a tremendous loss, our Web site will never quite be the same, but his extraordinary wisdom will live on forever through the videos he took such great care to make for us. I will miss him.
Cathy Kirkwood, MPH, I*CARE Project Director, Faculty Development
I don't think we could have ever pulled off the "On Being An Oncologist" project without Rob Buckman. It took a great deal of imagination and shear will to get it done. Without doubt, it's a great product of which we are all very proud. Even William Hurt, the famous actor who volunteered his time to work with us on the production, says that it is one of his proudest pieces of work. That really says something.
Rob was a delight to work with – funny, erudite, brilliant, and self-deprecating. His enthusiasm was infectious and he urged us on with his "we're going to take over the world" gung-ho attitude and joy. He was always bubbling with new ideas, some pretty farfetched and others quite doable. He was also very kind and generous. When a good friend of mine was faced with metastatic cancer, he counseled her, helped her face the reality of her disease, and gave her his cell phone number so that at any time, she could call him and talk.
Rob became a good friend and someone I would occasionally visit on trips home to Toronto. We would meet for lunch and talk about books, religion (he was an atheist, I was not), politics (Canadians versus Americans, the Brits versus everyone else), humor, films (he hated Mamma Mia! I loved it), ethics, politics, the future (did we have one as a species?).
I'll miss the opportunity to have long, delightful, rich conversations and the possibilities he opened up for outstanding, creative work.
Janis Apted, MLS, Associate Vice President, Faculty Development
To read more about Dr. Buckman's life and career go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rob_Buckman