The life of Dr. Richard F. Edlich, who made an indelible mark on the University of Virginia Health System and on health care worldwide, will be celebrated March 25, from 5:30 to 8 p.m., in the McKim Hall Auditorium.
An award-winning physician and pioneer in wound care at U.Va. and other schools, Edlich died Dec. 25 in Brush Prairie, Wash. He was 74.
Edlich came to the U.Va. School of Medicine for a plastic surgery residency in 1972, after general surgical training at the University of Minnesota. He eventually became Distinguished Professor of Plastic Surgery and Professor of Biomedical Engineering. He left as professor emeritus in 2001, moving to the Pacific Northwest to pursue further medical research opportunities.
Although he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1985, he continued to make significant contributions to health care and was instrumental in establishing the Health System’s Department of Rehabilitative Medicine. He also advocated for enforcement of the Americans with Disabilities Act locally and nationally, meeting with President Clinton in 2000, and was honored by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society for his work to improve access for people with disabilities.
Today, because of Edlich’s support, U.Va.’s Edlich-Henderson Innovator of the Year Award (previously Inventor of the Year) is given to faculty, staff or students whose research discoveries are making a major impact on society. The Licensing & Ventures Group administers the $10,000 award.
Edlich founded and directed U.Va.’s Burn and Wound Healing Center, fostering the collaboration of scientists in developing revolutionary advances in emergency medical care as well as burn care. His projects resulted in several innovative products, including the adhesive skin closure tape now used routinely around the world, and a safe cleanser for decontaminating wounds.
As a result of Edlich’s research into the toxic effects of the use of cornstarch-powdered latex gloves, alternative gloves are now standard in hospitals and the medical profession.
He not only became director of Emergency Medical Services at U.Va. until 1982, but he also worked with others to develop a comprehensive emergency medical system throughout the commonwealth.
Among his many awards, he received the U.Va. Alumni Association’s Distinguished Professor Award in 1985; the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia Outstanding Faculty Award in 1989; and the Thomas Jefferson Award, the highest academic honor presented by the University, in 1991.