Deaths of Dr. Dan Dickinson, Dr. Matthew Burke take toll at Eisenhower Army Medical Center

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Some of the staffers already knew the bad news when they gathered that morning at Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center, but it didn't diminish the heartache when they were told Dr. Dan Dickinson was killed by a car while bicycling to work.

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Maj. Cliff Vicars, a chaplain at Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center, said the deaths of two doctors hit the community "in a very personal way."   Sara Caldwell/Staff
Sara Caldwell/Staff
Maj. Cliff Vicars, a chaplain at Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center, said the deaths of two doctors hit the community "in a very personal way."

The hospital was somber and quiet Aug. 1, but especially the family medicine clinic where Dickinson worked, said Maj. Cliff Vicars, one of four chaplains at the hospital on Fort Gordon. Some of them cried; others sat in disbelief.

"People just couldn't believed it happened again," Vicars said. "Another doctor, of all things."

Six months earlier, a similar scene had occurred when Dr. Matthew Burke, an orthopedic surgeon at the hospital, died of injuries sustained in an October bike wreck. Burke was first taken to Medical College of Georgia Hospital, then to Eisenhower.

Burke was hit on Beech Island Avenue in Aiken County during a Friday night ride, and it wasn't until Monday that most of his colleagues heard the news. At that point it wasn't clear whether he would survive, said Maj. Collie Foster, a fellow chaplain.

Foster held a "critical incident debriefing," which allowed people to share their grief and their good memories of Burke. Unlike the immediate, sudden departure of Dickinson, Burke's colleagues were able to check on him while he was at the hospital and spend time with his family. As medical workers, they could track every improvement and deterioration in his condition, Foster said.

As chaplains, Foster and Vicars have experience counseling people with both types of deaths.

"Neither one is easy," Vicars said. "They just feel different."

Perhaps hardest to accept is that two doctors at Eisenhower were killed doing something they loved: cycling. A lot of people at the hospital want to stay in shape and ride their bicycles, Vicars said, but when people in the same profession are lost, there's a feeling of dread.

"When does this ball stop bouncing? What needs to happen in the community to make it a safer place?" he asked.

Dickinson and Burke were highly esteemed by their colleagues.

Vicars said Dickinson made an effort to get to know the nurses, doctors, clerks and other staffers he worked with.

When they died, their colleagues made plans to take care of Burke's wife and daughter and Dickinson's wife and four children, the chaplains said.

Besides the emotional toll on a combined 100 colleagues, the doctors' deaths had a logistical impact, too. Patients were showing up for appointments the mornings they were hit. There was an immediate need to reschedule and shuffle patients to other doctors.

"There was a great domino effect," Vicars said. "It affected the community in a very personal way."

Coming Sunday

Bicycle Magazine released its top 50 bike-friendly cities. What do those cities have that Augusta doesn't?

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commonsense-is-endangere 08/13/11 - 09:07 am
So sad. Riding a bicycle on

So sad. Riding a bicycle on major roads in the CSRA with the quality and condition of some of the drivers I have witnessed, especially at night, is probably equal to walking through Afghanistan unarmed waving an American flag. Surely the negatives outweigh the positives.

Riverman1 08/13/11 - 04:55 pm
A few years ago the young,

A few years ago the young, enlisted aid to the Commanding General of the Fort was killed in a motorcycle accident. The General began a policy of strict safety measures for motorcycle riders that went far beyond what state law requires. Safety clothing, reflective gear and other measures were mandatory.

Possibly it's time the CG took a look at bicyclists. There's something exhilarating about the healthy bike riding in the open air that draws the finest even in dangerous conditions.

There is the chief of one department, a talented surgeon, who rides his bike down Dyess Pwky every morning in the dark. I fear for him so much. The General could limit where and when bikes are ridden in addition to what type clothing, reflective gear and lights they use. He has that power over Army personnel, plus those riding on the fort. He could also order active duty personnel to stop riding completely if he chooses.

oldenoughtoknowbetter 08/13/11 - 09:32 pm
Although I do not wish harm

Although I do not wish harm to anyone, I have to question the intelligence of somebody riding a bicycle on a busy road during rush hour. It is illegal to ride a bike on I-20 but that is probably safer than riding on Belair Rd., Fury's Ferry Road or any other busy thoroughfare. A 40 pound back is no match for a 2000 truck. Riding a bike is great excercise and I applaud people who try to stay fit and save energy, but please use some common sense.

oldredneckman96 04/17/12 - 04:24 am
Everyone involved in the

Everyone involved in the death of the good Doctors has lost. The drivers of the vehicles, the Doctors and the public in general. Until this country lets bicyclist ride facing traffic, like a pedestrian, we will continue to lose too many every year. If you see a car comming and choose to not get out of the way, you are in the shallow end of the gene pool. With your back turned, you are playing russian roulette with the lives of many.

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