There are many people who can claim that if it weren’t for Dr. Robert Bartlett, they wouldn’t be here today. And while Dr. Bartlett has been busy saving lives in a variety of areas in medicine, he has had the greatest impact as a result of his work on developing the extracorporeal membrane oxygenation machine, or ECMO for short.
Essentially, ECMO is an artificial lung that can oxygenate the blood of those who have experienced acute heart or lung failure. The significance of this was first widely noted in 1975 when Dr. Bartlett used the then little known device to successfully treat a newborn infant with respiratory failure. Following this medical breakthrough, ECMO gained worldwide acceptance and, to date, has helped to save the lives of literally tens of thousands of patients.
Aside from his pioneering work on ECMO, Dr. Bartlett is also one of a team of four that launched the University of Michigan Health System's Breast Care Center in 1984. Today, the Breast Care Center has become a major component of the University of Michigan Health System, and has served as a model for many other medical centers around the country. He also developed the field of critical care medicine at Michigan, and was director of the internationally recognized Surgical Intensive Care unit for 25 years.
In the realm of medicine, there are few doctors who possess as much gravity and world renown as Dr. Bartlett. But those who have gotten to know him best, whether patient, student, or colleague, say Dr. Bartlett’s greatest accomplishment is the humanity that he brings to his practice. The consummate optimist, Dr. Bartlett is just as well known for his smile as he is for his groundbreaking discoveries. “His enthusiasm and positive outlook keep us going,” is something often said by Dr. Bartlett’s patients and their families. Through both his bedside manner and his amazing research, Dr. Bartlett is sure to have a continued and lasting affect on both modern medicine and the lives of those it touches.