Fort Worth emergency medicine visionary dies

John Geesbreght, M.D., and wife Priscilla at the opening of the Marion Emergency Center at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth.

John M. Geesbreght, a long-time emergency medicine physician who served on the Texas Health Fort Worth medical staff for more than four decades, died Aug. 4 after suffering a stroke the previous day.

He was 75.

“Dr. Geesbreght was the consummate servant leader. He helped Texas Health Fort Worth’s ER and trauma program achieve regional and national recognition for quality care,” said Barclay Berdan, CEO of Texas Health Resources.

A service was scheduled for 1 p.m. Friday, Aug. 9, at Christ Chapel Bible Church, 3701 Birchman Ave., Fort Worth.

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The Fort Worth Business Press named him as a Health Care Hero in 2016 and he said in an interview at that time that the desire to be a physician came early – in the fourth grade.

Dr. Geesbreght was raised in an Italian neighborhood in inner city Chicago and his best buddy, a boy named Jerry, was committed to being a doctor.

One day, Jerry was trying to break up a fight on the high dive board at a local swimming pool and got knocked off the platform. His injuries made him a quadriplegic. Dr. Geesbreght went to visit his friend.

“He said to me, ‘John, one of us has got to be a doctor and it isn’t going to be me.’ Ever since fourth grade, that’s what I was going to be. That’s how I got interested,” Dr. Geesbreght said recently.

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He graduated from the University of Illinois, Navy Pier, Chicago, in an accelerated pre-med with a major in history and a minor in biology in 1965. He was in the James Scholar Honors Program, which encouraged academically gifted students to fully develop their intellectual abilities and achieve the college’s highest academic recognition.

Dr. Geesbreght earned his medical degree in 1969 from Loyola-Stritch School of Medicine

In Maywood, Illinois. He earned a masters of science in physiology from Loyola in 1970, studied as a post-doctoral fellow in the National Institutes of Health, Department of Physiology, Loyola

Graduate School Stritch School of Medicine during the same period.

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From 1970 to 1972, he interned at the Michael Reese Medical Center, University of Chicago Affiliated Hospitals, in Chicago.

“As a treating physician on the Texas Health Fort Worth medical staff, he cared for countless patients who came to the hospital in their greatest time of need. These were bankers and lawyers, teachers and firefighters, the homeless and the poor. And he cared for all of them in the same way – with unquestioned medical expertise and unmatched compassion and grace,” Berdan said.

At the time of his death, Dr. Geesbreght was a member of the MedStar Board of Directors.

“Dr. Geesbreght was a Fort Worth emergency medical icon. His visionary leadership and unwavering devotion to our community was, and continues to be, an inspiration for us all,” said District 3 City Councilman Brian Byrd, himself a physician and the chair of the MedStar board.

“Dr. Geesbreght was a founding member of the Emergency Physician’s Advisory Board, the physician board that helps develop the EMS System medical protocols and advises the EMS System Medical Director,” Byrd said.

“His insight into emergency medicine and his business acumen has helped MedStar become one of the most recognized and respected EMS Systems in the country. We will miss his leadership and gentlemanly kindness, but his legacy will live on in innumerable ways. We cannot overstate his impact on emergency medical care in Fort Worth and the entire region,” Byrd said.

Dr. Geesbreght founded Emergency Medicine Consultants in 1975, the physicians’ group that provides emergency medicine staffing for 24 facilities and one urgent care center in multiple health systems, including Texas Health Resources and Methodist Health System.

Emergency Medicine Consultants was acquired by clinician services organization TeamHealth in February 2018. The news release announcing that said that EMC’s approximately 330 physicians and 80 advanced practice clinicians provide care to more than 900,000 patients each year.

Berdan said Dr. Geesbreght gave back to the Tarrant County community in many ways.

“He provided vital leadership to the Marion Emergency Center fundraising campaign at Texas Health Fort Worth. Today, the ER treats more than 130,000 patients a year, making it one of the busiest trauma centers in the state.” Berdan said.

The center’s state-of-the-art simulation training lab is named the John Geesbreght, M.D. Education Center in his honor. The center provides training for people ranging from students at Trimble Tech High School to emergency department nurses to medical residents to first responders.

He and his wife, Priscilla, made a generous donation to support the construction of the Justin Patient Surgical Tower at Texas Health Fort Worth, along with his serving on the Justin Tower Steering Committee.

“The tower will open in two years. When it does, it will be the place where Tarrant County residents receive lifesaving care in the region’s most modern facility. That will be a beautiful and fitting tribute to the giving spirit of Dr. Geesbreght and his family,” Berdan said.

Earlier this year, Dr. Geesbreght and his wife established the first endowed chair at the TCU and UNTHSC School of Medicine.

Endowed faculty positions are among the most prestigious and impactful types of investments a donor can make and are one of the most revered traditions of higher education, the medical school said in the announcement.

Terence McCarthy, M.D., the academic chair for emergency medicine at the School of Medicine, was named the inaugural recipient of the John M. Geesbreght M.D., M.S., FACEP, Chair of Emergency Medicine.

Dr. Geesbreght held a certified airline transport pilot license and studied music for 12 years at the Chicago Conservatory of Music.

His mother took him to his studies every Tuesday for years.

“She wanted me to learn the piano. She bought me a piano when I was 4,” he said in a previous interview with the Business Press.

“I went every week and took all of the theory, harmony and full orchestration and all that kind of stuff – but I had no talent,” he said. “When I got to high school and started playing trombone in the orchestra, I was always the second guy because my improvisational skills were severely lacking. But technically, I could play very well, because I practiced, because my mother said you can’t go out until you practice.”

Dr. Geesbreght said that wasn’t true about his daughter, April Cushman, who lives in Nashville.

Among other songs, she wrote My Hope Is In You, performed by Christian singer Aaron Shust on his album This Is What We Believe.

In the interview for Health Care Heroes, Dr. Geesbreght spoke about treatment of people in the emergency room:

“What I have always said to our people is that you think you are in the business of taking care of arms and spleens and this and that,” he said. “What you are really in the business for is chaos resolution. That’s what people want with they come to the ER. When they show up at your front door, guess what? They’ve already had a bad day. Your job is not to add to it. Your job is to actually put the pieces back together for them.”

The ER is for everyone, he said then.

“We don’t even provide any way for any of our doctors to know whether this is the guy that owns the bridge or lives under it. That’s just the way it is. Not just the doctors but our nurses too because that’s how we select them,” he said.

His family said that Dr. Geesbreght enjoyed playing nearly every sport imaginable, and excelled at racquetball, ice hockey, and snow skiing, but no so much at golf). He raced both dirt and street motorcycles and loved cars – fast ones.

Dr. Geesbreght is survived by his wife of 40 years, Priscilla; his children, Andrea (Tom Von Ruff), Alexander (Carey), Andrew (Chelsea), and April (Trey Cushman); by his eight grandchildren, John (16), Joseph (14), Vivian (13), Lilliana (9), Emmylou (7), Olive (5), EverCrew (1) and Westyn (4 weeks); his mother-in-law Sylvia Thompson; his sister-in-law, Beverly Thompson; his nieces, Jodi Johnson, Becky Phillips; and his nephews, Eric Thompson and Dwight Thompson.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggested donations to North Texas Ace Foundation; Texas Health Resources Foundation; and/or Christ Chapel Bible Church, specifically in the area of Christian Leadership Development.

Includes material from Business Press archives