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Doctor used faith as tool

Gurucharri used his struggle with cancer to reach out to other patients.
Thursday, December 11, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 2:59 p.m. CDT, Thursday, July 17, 2008

Dr. Vincent Paul Gurucharri spent the last two years fighting a rare form of cancer. On Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2003, his battle ended at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis at the age of 58.

Before he was ever diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome, Dr. Gurucharri found his faith in God to be an important tool in his career as a surgeon.

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Gurucharri

In an article written in October of 2002, Dr. Gurucharri explained his views, saying, “You’re a fool to think you can perform surgery by yourself. I can do the technical part, but I have no control over the ultimate result. We have to realize that anything we do, its outcome is dependent on God.”

Scharlene Gurucharri, Dr. Gurucharri’s sister-in-law, said that faith was at the core of the entire family.

“They were very dedicated to their church, even more so after finding out about Vince’s illness,” she said. “It was so devastating I think the family almost relied more on their faith the past two years because it was the one thing that was constant.”

In December of 2001, Dr. Gurucharri was diagnosed with the syndrome, which causes bone marrow to produce too many red blood cells and prevents them from maturing normally. As a result, he ceased his medical endeavors, but his work continued to affect others.

Dr. Walter Peters worked with Dr. Gurucharri at Boone Hospital Center for 15 years. He said he would remember Dr. Gurucharri’s dedication to his family and to his work.

“He loved what he did as a surgeon more than anyone I know,” Peters said. “Over the course of his career he impacted thousands of Missourians, specifically working with lung, esophageal and breast cancer patients.”

Friends put together a bone marrow drive at Boone Hospital in April 2002 for Dr. Gurucharri and a month later, a match was found. This experience prompted him to start a Web site linked to the hospital’s homepage in an effort to educate and teach people about bone marrow drives. Through it, he also shared what going through the treatment process was like.

“I created the Web site because of the ignorance and lack of knowledge, not just on my part, but on the part of physicians and anyone who wants and needs to know about bone marrow drives,” he said in the October 2002 article. “It’s very rewarding to know I’m helping those people.”

Peters said seeing Dr. Gurucharri become a patient was a learning experience for everyone involved.

“It changed how we all deal with patients,” Peters said. “Vince was able to tell both sides of the illness. He could tell us how the patient feels and how things can be perceived from the patient’s perspective.”

Dr. Gurucharri was born on June 30, 1945, in Rome, N.Y., to Vicente V. and Kathleen A. Lloyd Gurucharri. He was raised in DeBary, Fla., and was the second of 12 children.

Nick Gurucharri, his nephew, remembers him for being a family man.

“He was the one that organized our first family reunion about 13 or 14 years ago,” Nick said. “He was determined to keep our large family together.”

Nick also remembers his uncle’s love of motor sports.

“As far back as I can remember Vince and I would go to the Daytona 500 every February with my dad, Ray, my uncle Mike and my two cousins, Brian and Matthew. Vince had a deep passion for the sport.”

Dr. Gurucharri graduated cum laude from the University of Notre Dame in 1967 with a bachelor’s of science degree. He went on to the University of Chicago where he met his future wife, Jean Danner, who was a nursing student. They married on Dec. 20, 1969. In 1971, Dr. Gurucharri received his medical degree.

From 1972 to 1976, Dr. Gurucharri did a general surgery residency at the MU Medical Center before serving as a lieutenant commander with the United States Naval Medical Center in Great Lakes, Ill., from 1976 to 1978. He returned to the MU Medical Center for a cardiothoracic residency in 1978, joined the staff of Columbia Surgical Associates and Boone Hospital Center in 1980 and made Columbia his home ever since.

“Vince was respected by many people,” Scharlene Gurucharri said. “He always helped people, whether it was pulling them aside or taking them on a walk to clear their heads. He always knew what people needed without them ever asking.”

His accomplishments in the medical field include being honored as a fellow for the American College of Chest Physicians and the American College of Surgeons, receiving the AMA Physician Recognition Award in 1985, the American Academy of Family Practice Teacher Award in 1994 and 1995, and the Best Doctors in America award for the central region in 1996.

Dr. Gurucharri was a member of the University of Missouri Surgical Society, American Medical Association, Missouri State Medical Association, Boone County Medical Society, Southern Medical Society, Missouri Thoracic Society, Society of Thoracic Surgeons, Society of Surgical Oncology, Southern Thoracic Surgical Association, American College of Surgeons and Society of Laparoendoscopic Surgeons. He was also active in the Life Teen Program at the Newman Center with his wife.

He is survived by his wife, Jean Gurucharri of Columbia; his mother, Kathleen Gurucharri of DeLand, Fla.; three daughters, Karen M. Gurucharri of Nashville, Linda M. Gurucharri of Chicago and Ann M. Gurucharri of Columbia; five brothers, Frank Gurucharri of Alameda, Calif., Tom Gurucharri of Rockford, Ill., Ray Gurucharri of Miami, Michael Gurucharri of Bradenton, Fla., and Chris Gurucharri of DeLand, Fla.; and five sisters, Marie Kramer of Grafton, Wis., Teresa Monroe of DeLand, Fla., Carmel Ribero of Leominster, Mass., Tina Ankerson of Gainsville, Fla. and Nancy Pyzynski of Saco, Mass.

His father and a brother, Robert Gurucharri, died earlier.

Visitation will be 5 to 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Newman Center, 701 Maryland Ave., Columbia, with a prayer service at 7:30 p.m. Services, conducted by the Rev. Charles Pardee, will be at 10 a.m. on Saturday, also at the Newman Center.


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