Pioneering Utah neonatologist dies
The man who pioneered methods to save Utah's smallest and sickest newborns died Tuesday.
Considered the father of neonatology in the Intermountain West, August (Larry) Jung once used bubble wrap to keep babies warm. He created neonatal intensive care units at the University of Utah and Primary Children's Medical Center and helped create a program to train nurses in neonatal care.
Jung died of heart disease. He was 75.
"Larry was a humanitarian who sincerely and honestly cared about others," Edward Clark, chairman of the pediatrics department at the University of Utah and director of Primary Children's said in an e-mail to colleagues Tuesday. "Larry's most important contribution is to the thousands of babies for whom he cared, as well as those who have benefited from the NICU infrastructure he created."
According to the U., Jung opened Utah's first newborn intensive care unit at the hospital in 1968. The unit was rudimentary, according to a Salt Lake Tribune 2006 profile. Rocking chairs were taken from other hospital units; nurses sold doughnuts to raise money to buy a heart-rate monitor.
Jung also established a neonatal team to help transport babies to the unit from throughout the Intermountain West.
When the U.'s unit opened, 15 babies died for every 1,000 born, and babies born before 32 weeks gestation would have died. Within a year, the mortality rate dropped by half, according to the U. Today, about half of the babies born at 24 weeks gestation survive.
In 2004, the U.'s School of Medicine established a presidential endowed chair in the pediatric neonatology division in Jung's name.
"Larry wasn't about what was good for him. Larry was about what was good for the babies," said U. neonatologist Robert Lane, who is the current endowed chair.
In an interview before Jung's death, Lane credited Jung for creating a department that attracts national faculty who are able to pursue research when other departments have cut back. "None of us would be here if it weren't for Larry."
The Utah chapter of the March of Dimes recently renamed its neonatologist of the year award after Jung.
"He truly touched the lives of so many as he lovingly mentored generations of physicians and cared for the tiniest of Utahns," said Rachel Hixson, the group's NICU family support specialist.
Jung was drawn to neonatology after learning his first child had cerebral palsy. Christine Jung died at age 17 due to complications of the disorder. Jung and his wife, Joy, of Farmington, had three other children and nine grandchildren.