Dr. Kesler, force behind the CMC,
retires after 27 years
of HS Development
Richard Kesler with one of the many patients he has seen in
his 27 years as a U.Va. pediatrician.
By Mary Jane Gore
Richard W. Keslers abundant interests and avocations would
have made the Universitys founding father proud.
while his outside pursuits encompass a variety of subjects, his
work for the U.Va. Department of Pediatrics was his main focus
for 27 years, until his retirement Dec. 31.
headed the residency-training program throughout that period,
and served as the departments vice chair for most of that
time. He organized several specialty clinics for children.
fostered a vision for a multidisciplinary Childrens
Medical Center, of which he ultimately became the medical
director. His vision includes plans for a new CMC building.
community ties he has nurtured have benefited two generations
of children. And thats just his work life.
that hes retired, Kesler, 60, plans to pursue other interests.
He is an old-car buff, gourmet chef and an enthusiast of gardening,
landscape design and architecture. He will spend more time in
Asia, supervising his profitable businesses there. He also will
continue to consult on pediatric projects, especially the new
Kesler came to U.Va. in 1974, he took over pediatric residency
training. Since then, he has trained nearly 300 residents and
built U.Va.s reputation as one of the most sought-after
programs in the country. Each year, 1,500 applications are submitted
for 11 slots.
has handled the responsibilities of training residents in a safe
and thoughtful way for more than 25 years, says Dr. Thomas
Massaro, chief of staff for the Health System and a fellow pediatrician.
I cant remember ever hearing of a resident who wasnt
grateful to train under him.
chair Dr. Robert Chevalier says Kesler takes a personal interest
in all of the residents. He mentors them, supports them through
the stresses of internship and residency, and takes great interest
in their success after graduation. While most small residency
programs train people to go into private practice, about half
of U.Va.s pediatric residents enter academic practice.
of Keslers first projects was organizing nephrology and
rheumatology clinics for children. He worked closely with internists
to care for these patients, as well as children with gastrointestinal
1980, Kesler attended a conference that described a unified childrens
medical center within a hospital, combining medical, surgical
and support services. Kesler and Blizzard, along with hospital
director John Ashley and local supporter Barry Battle, fostered
the idea of a Childrens Medical Center at U.Va. In 1982,
the Medical Policy Committee approved the plan. Eventually, the
center found a home on the seventh floor of the new University
Kesler is deeply committed to this center, Chevalier says,
pointing out that Kesler formed the CMC Committee, a mix of health
professionals and interested local people, and helped launch the
telethons and radiothons that annually raise funds for the CMC.
CMC and its committee have become the most effective community
relationship we have at the Medical Center, and probably in the
whole institution, Massaro says.
founding is classic Dick Kesler, he adds. He
did all the work and sold the idea quietly.
Sharon Hostler, head of the U.Va. Division of Developmental Pediatrics,
has known Kesler since he arrived here. I will miss his
commitment to the concepts of family-centered care and, specifically,
his protection of the play terrace on the seventh floor.
Some physicians have eyed that space for other purposes, but it
has remained sacrosanct because of Dick Keslers passion
and his patronage of the hospital education department,
new CMC building on the grounds of the Kluge Childrens Rehabilitation
Center is the latest of Keslers cherished projects.
persisted through a series of business and operational
plans, working drawings and multiple architects for a period of
seven years to bring it to approval, Hostler says. When
there were setbacks, he shook himself off and found another strategic
in retirement, he will likely don a hardhat and assist in fund
raising for the project. He will also supervise the landscaping.
I will fight for the location and species of every tree.