Dr. Wheeler Remembered for His Contributions to ARDS, Pulmonary Care

2016 - 2 April - SCCM’s Quality Improvement Initiatives
This article celebrates the life of Arthur P. Wheeler, MD.

Arthur P. Wheeler, MD, age 58, passed away December 17, 2015.

A nationally recognized leader in critical care medicine, Dr. Wheeler’s studies contributed key findings that changed how intensive care unit (ICU) patients are managed. His research helped determine optimal mechanical ventilation for the management of patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), and he questioned the value of the routine use of pulmonary artery catheters and chlorhexidine bathing of patients to reduce infection rates.

Dr. Wheeler was a professor at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC). He completed his undergraduate and medical degrees at the University of Maryland and joined VUMC in 1982 as an intern in the Department of Medicine. Completing his residency as a Hugh J. Morgan Chief Resident in 1987, he then completed a research fellowship in the Division of Pulmonary Medicine before becoming a member of the VUMC faculty in 1989.

Dr. Wheeler co-authored the definitive textbook Critical Care Medicine: The Essentials, an integral training guide for critical care practitioners. The book is now in its fourth edition.

Among his greatest accomplishments, according to VUMC, Dr. Wheeler led the Pulmonary and Critical Care fellowship training program, was vice-chair of the of the Pharmacy and Therapeutics Committee, served on the Laboratory Services Committee, was medical director of the Clinical Trials Coordinating Center, and was director of the medical ICU (MICU) Nurse Practitioner Program.

 “Art was a major part of the fabric of our division for 30 years, positively impacting each of us and helping to make this a rewarding place to train and work. In addition to being an international leader in critical care medicine, he was a great friend, colleague and role model who will be missed for a long time to come,” said Timothy S. Blackwell, MD, professor of medicine and director of the Division of Allergy, Pulmonary & Critical Care Medicine.

Especially supportive of the role of nurses and nurse practitioners in the critical care setting, he was proud to have built an alliance among nurses and physicians who serve in the MICU. When the Vanderbilt University Hospital Critical Care Tower opened and the MICU grew from 26 to 34 beds, Dr. Wheeler designed and developed a new nurse practitioner program to provide around-the-clock coverage for many of the MICU patients. His program now serves as a national model.

Dr. Wheeler was a Fellow of the American College of Critical Care Medicine and had been a member of the Society of Critical Care Medicine since 1992, serving as an abstract reviewer and faculty member for the Critical Care Congress.

Contributing significantly to the body of knowledge of the care of critically ill patients, Dr. Wheeler was an author or co-author of 138 original investigations. He participated in more than 300 national and international presentations. He was a frequent lecturer at VUMC, and gave nearly 200 presentations on a host of topics.

In addition to being a licensed, instrument-rated commercial pilot, Dr. Wheeler coached basketball and soccer and was involved in the Boy Scouts in his community. He also served on the board of Governing Members for the Nashville Symphony Orchestra.

Dr. Wheeler is survived by his wife, Lisa Wheeler; sons, Aaron and Eric Wheeler; brother and sister-in-law, Kerry and Cheryl Wheeler; nephews, Chad and Devin (Karleigh) Wheeler; family of the heart and second mom, Ella Nora Hoerl, and her children and grandchildren.
Some materials reprinted from the Vanderbilt University Medical Center Reporter from an article published online December 21, 2015.