Active Yuma Dr. Webb dies at 81
Longtime Yuma surgeon Dr. Dale Webb has died. He passed away Friday in San Diego while attending a conference for the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons. He was 81.
During his years in active practice, Webb served on the Hospital District Board, the YRMC Operating Board, and as a tuberculosis control officer for Yuma and Mohave Counties.
“He wasn't just a friend to me, but an enduring friend to this community,” said Dr. Connie Uribe, a longtime colleague of Webb.
“To say Dr. Dale Webb was a just another hard-working member of the medical profession is like saying Gibraltar is just another rock near the water.”
Webb was born in Yuma on Feb. 5, 1931. After graduating from high school, he attended the University of Arizona in Tucson and earned a degree in pharmacy. He graduated from the Oregon Health and Science University in 1958 and completed his residency in general surgery in Los Angeles.
In 1965 he came back to Yuma after a two-year residency in chest surgery at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. He was board certified in general surgery, as well as in cardiovascular and thoracic surgery.
Uribe worked with Webb for 23 years in the operating room, “and on occasion witnessed performances which I can only describe as miraculous,” she said. “Even though the cases should have been reported in journals, to Dale Webb they were all in a day's work.”
Webb spoke with the Yuma Sun about one such emergency situation in 2006.
“A man was brought in with gunshots to his heart,” Webb said. “I opened his chest and a blood clot shot into my face. I stuck my finger into a hole in his heart and (Dr. Lester Olin) came into the ER.”
Olin, who died in 2006, was an OB-GYN, not a heart specialist.
“I told him I needed help, and although he was a bit hesitant, he came through and held the man’s heart up so I could sew the hole. The man lived in spite of all the other bullet holes he had.”
When he came back to Yuma in 1965, Webb began working at Parkview Baptist Hospital, now known as Yuma Regional Medical Center.
“It was very, very difficult in Yuma,” Webb said in an article published by the Yuma Sun in 2008.
At the time, the hospital had only three patient units, including obstetrics, pediatrics and central. One nurse made up the staff in the ER, and there was no intensive care unit.
Webb, with the support of Dr. Henry Meyer, made efforts to improve the care offered to patients. Webb used his own money to buy pacemaker equipment for the hospital because Parkview Baptist couldn't afford it. He inserted the first pacemaker at the hospital, and then trained Dr. Meyer how to perform the procedure.
“Dr. Webb treated every patient with the same intensity of purpose -- to give the best care possible and let nothing stand in the way,” Uribe said.
“Dr. Webb led by example, and he was always looking for a way to better the health care for everyone. Besides all the volunteer work he did with the health department caring for the tuberculosis patients, he would go south of the border - and I mean south - to offer assistance to doctors in underserved countries.”
In the mid-1970s, Webb became a member of the Yuma County Hospital District Board. “Then I was in a position to ask questions,” he said in 2008. “I'm here to look out for the people, to make sure money is being spent the way it should have been spent. It's been a steady march of improvement. YRMC has grown and changed, but changes for improvement require eternal vigilance.”
Uribe referred to Webb as a “pillar of the community,” but noted he “could be a thorn in the side as well. The people of Yuma may recall reading in The Sun when he was escorted out of a YRMC Operating Board meeting because he asked a question about where the money went. If the community's health care was at stake, he would throw protocol to the wind.”
Webb once made national news when he sued the Arizona Medical Board because “his rights were violated when he was wrongfully sanctioned,” Uribe continued. “The sanction was overturned. None of his caring, none of his compassion, none of his amazing skill ever made headlines.”
Uribe thought it was appropriate Webb died doing what he loved.
“He became ill while attending a conference of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, an organization dedicated to the sanctity of the patient-physician relationship,” she said. “Up to the very end Dale Webb was focused on defending the rights of patients and physicians. This is as it should be.”
Chris McDaniel can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6849.