John Harvey Receives Georgetown University’s Highest Honor

Posted in GUMC Stories

A Georgetown University physician-researcher and medical ethicist earned one of the university’s highest honors earlier this month, recognizing a lifetime of career achievement.

On Dec. 3, John Collins Harvey, MD, PhD, received a Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, in Gaston Hall at a special ceremony attended by Georgetown President John J. DeGioia, PhD, and Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, D.C., among others.

Harvey practiced and taught medicine for nearly five decades – 20 years at Johns Hopkins and 27 years at Georgetown University Hospital – conducting laboratory research on skeletal muscle diseases along the way. At age 55, Harvey pursued another calling that first piqued his interest in medical school, which led to his PhD in moral theology.

“Any one of these pursuits conducted with the study, dedication, and virtue exhibited by John is worthy of the highest praise,” said Howard J. Federoff, MD, PhD, executive vice president for health sciences at Georgetown University Medical Center (GUMC) and executive dean of its School of Medicine, speaking at the ceremony honoring Harvey. “His scientific and ethical accomplishments would be greatly under-appreciated, though, if we simply attributed them to an incredibly keen sense of curiosity. Instead, John’s actions and his deeds are clearly grounded in an extraordinary sense of service – to his colleagues, his students, his fellow humans, and to God.”

Harvey has been part of the Georgetown community for 40 years. He is currently a senior research scholar at GUMC’s Center for Clinical Bioethics, emeritus senior research scholar at the Kennedy Institute of Ethics, and a professor of medicine emeritus. He served on many medical advisory committees at the local, national, and international levels and was one of the founding council members of the National Institute on Aging of the National Institutes of Health. He also was co-founder of the Archdiocesan Health Care Network for the Poor, Homeless, and Uninsured.

The Rev. Kevin FitzGerald, PhD, SJ, the Dr. David P. Lauler Chair for Catholic Health Care Ethics and long-time friend of Harvey, echoed Federoff’s sentiment.

“Dr. Harvey’s ability to inspire those around him toward greater service, greater understanding, and devotion is unparalleled: in fact, it is boundless,” FitzGerald said, as he read the degree citation. “His deep caring – for people, for science and medicine, and for God – is contagious. He has earned the love and respect of countless individuals because of the love and respect he has bestowed. Similarly, his devotion to his family serves as a model for the unwavering commitment and deep generosity of this love.”

At the end of the citation reading and in keeping with tradition, DeGioia placed a hood over Harvey’s head and announced, “By virtue of the authority vested in me by the Congress of the United States and by the Board of Directors of Georgetown University, I officially confer upon Dr. John Collins Harvey Sr., the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa.”

“I’m truly delighted to be standing here tonight among colleagues, friends, and family. It is a precious moment and from the bottom of my heart, I thank each of you for being here,” Harvey said.

Harvey gave credit for his successes to his late wife, Adele, calling her generous, wise, and supportive, and his best advisor over their 61 years of marriage. He also shared his memories of his early exposure to the medical profession provided by his father, who was also a physician.

“I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be a doctor,” Harvey said.

“I do believe my career in medicine has been an extraordinary one, not because of what I’ve done but because of the extraordinary individuals who have shared my passion for medicine and who’ve been my mentors, colleagues, associates, students, and patients,” he said. “What I’ve learned with and from these people has shaped my philosophy and my practice as a clinician and a professor.”

By Karen Mallet, GUMC Communications

(Published December 13, 2012)