Colleagues remember UNMC’s James Chapin, MD

James Chapin, MD, in 2012

James Chapin, MD, in 2012

Colleagues are remembering James Chapin, MD, a former professor and transplant anesthesiologist in the UNMC Department of Anesthesiology, as a leader, a pioneer, a role model and a mentor.

Dr. Chapin, who was living in Florida, died Nov. 6 at age 77. The Fort Crook, Nebraska, native earned his medical degree in 1972 from UNMC, where he also completed his internship and residency. Dr. Chapin stayed at the university until his retirement in 2014.

“Many of our faculty remember him fondly as an educator, mentor and a master anesthesiologist,” said Mohanad Shukry, MD, PhD, interim chair of the department. “He was instrumental in establishing the UNMC transplant program at its infancy. He also placed UNMC Department of Anesthesiology on the national map through his volunteer work and expertise with the Malignant Hyperthermia Association of the United States.”

See Dr. Chapin’s obituary, including information on memorial gifts.

It was through MHAUS that Dr. Shukry developed a relationship with Dr. Chapin, who encouraged him to join the department 11 years ago.

“I am grateful for his mentorship and guidance,” Dr. Shukry said.

Former department chair Steven Lisco, MD, also pointed to Dr. Chapin as integral to his decision to come to UNMC in 2012.

“I recall vividly him coming up to me at the American Society of Anesthesiologists annual meeting with a huge smile on his face and making the case why I ‘just had to come to Omaha and UNMC,’” Dr. Lisco said. “It was only a brief time after my first on-campus interview for the open chair position. He spoke to me for almost an hour. He obviously made his case, and for that I will be forever grateful.”

Dr. Lisco said: “Jim was a true gentleman physician, a calming presence in any clinical storm, and his dedication to clinical excellence and education is still something for us all to emulate.  He will surely be missed by all who know and love him.”

Byers “Bud” Shaw, MD, who worked with Dr. Chapin in the early days of the liver transplant program, said he was heartbroken by the news.

“He was a good friend and a devoted member of the medical center for many years,” Dr. Shaw said. “I am certain that without Jim’s skill and dedication, our liver transplant program would not have been as successful as it was during its early years. I shall be forever grateful to him not only for his hard work in getting us off to a successful start in the summer of 1985, but also, and perhaps most importantly, for passing on his knowledge and expertise to so many other anesthesiologists.  My heart goes out to his family.”

Sheila Ellis, MD, professor and vice chair of faculty development in the department, called Dr. Chapin not only an outstanding anesthesiologist, but a mentor for many in Nebraska and throughout the region.

“He was a true pioneer in transplant anesthesia and was one of the founders of the liver transplant program at UNMC in 1985,” Dr. Ellis said. “I will remember his calm approach to every situation and his skill in handling crises.  He loved puns and ‘dad jokes,’ was an excellent teacher, and he devoted his career to UNMC.  We will miss him.” 

John Skoog, MD, a former UNMC anesthesiology resident, remembered Dr. Chapin as an excellent anesthesiologist, wonderful person and a dear friend. Dr. Skoog also called Dr. Chapin a mentor, who he said nurtured his interest in malignant hyperthermia and encouraged him to join MHAUS.

“I will truly miss his sense of humor, no matter what the situation,” Dr. Skoog said. “He was a calming personality within the OR setting and was respected by everyone with whom he worked. He was a great role model for any resident, of all specialties, that had a chance to interact with him. My thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Phyllis, and their two sons.” 

Dr. Shukry said the entire department of anesthesiology extends its condolences to Dr. Chapin’s family, as well.

UNMC colleagues are invited to share their memories of Dr. Chapin in the comments below.


  1. Dr. Jorge F Rodriguez-Sierra says:

    Jim was a wonderful friend. Always a gentleman and kind to our students. We share many meals at the gourmet group with his wife Phyllis and enjoyed his sense of humor. We talked about our choice to go to Florida several times. His loss will be felt by all who knew him.

  2. Jeff Daubach says:

    In many ways Jim was the heart and soul of the UNMC Anesthesia Dept. A truly kind and caring man with a brilliant mind. Such a profound loss.

  3. Shelly McCaffrey says:

    Dr. Chapin was simply the best of the best! There was, and is, not a kinder, more gentle soul on this earth than Dr. Chapin! There are no words to express how much he meant to so many. I treasure all the years I worked for him, and though it was decades, it was not near enough! Dr. Chapin will always be in my heart! I join all those who are heartbroken, and send my love to Phyllis and the family.

  4. Carl Gumbiner says:

    Jim was a good friend and colleague. He will be missed by us all.

  5. Daniel Johnson, MD says:

    Jim taught us that doctors can be excellent, kind, and gentle — all at the same time.

    He was the Anesthesiology Residency Director for many of the current leaders of our Department, and for dozens of anesthesiologists across the region. His legacy is enormous, His example will live on.

  6. Tom O’Connor says:

    Dr. Chapin never sought the limelight, but it was quite obvious how well respected he was. He was a true gentleman – a class act!

  7. Dwight Jones says:

    Jim was a great teacher, friend and over all just a “good guy”. He was kind and caring and treated everyone with equal respect. I was lucky enough to work under him in medical school and as a resident. He was still at UNMC working in 2012 when I returned. He touched many lives. I am forever grateful I had the chance to meet and know him.
    We are all better people because of Jim.

  8. Lisa Runco says:

    When I joined the Anesthesia Department so many years ago to help with administration, Dr. Chapin was a warm and welcoming presence. He was one of the original “guard”, what a brilliant, loyal and dedicated group they were. Mitch and I send our deepest condolences to the Chapin family and to the Department.

  9. John Massey says:

    Dr Chapin had an exceptional combination of clinical expertise and warm, friendly interpersonal skills. This combination made all of his trainees eager to emulate his presence. He will long be remembered fondly.

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