Homer Richards Warner, MD, PhD, Passes November 30, 2012

Monday, December 3, 2012

Homer Richards Warner, son of Homer (Pug) and Grace Richards Warner was born April 18, 1922 and died November 30, 2012, in Salt Lake City from complications of pancreatitis. He graduated from and played football for East High School and the University of Utah, fulfilling and leaving a long family legacy at both institutions. He was a member of Sigma Chi fraternity.

During WWII he enlisted in the Naval Air Corps where he was trained to be a carrier-based fighter pilot. After the war he returned to the U where he met Katherine Ann Romney and they graduated together in 1946 and later married in the Salt Lake Temple. He graduated from the University of Utah medical school (MD ’49) and continued his training in Dallas, and then the University of Minnesota (PhD in Physiology ‘1953) and the Mayo Clinic where he developed an equation for estimating the beat-by-beat stroke volume of the heart from the shape of the pressure wave in the aorta. His experience with Dr. Earl Wood at the Mayo Clinic was pivotal in his decision to pursue a career in medical research.

With an American Heart research fellowship he returned to Salt Lake City where he opened the Cardiovascular Laboratory at the LDS Hospital in 1954 and within four years published his first article about the use of computers to analyze waveforms. Homer established the Department of Biophysics and Bioengineering (later renamed Medical Informatics) at the University of Utah in 1964 and served as Chair. In the 1960’s Homer built an analog computer to represent mathematical models of the circulation. With this tool he was able to demonstrate for the first time in experiments on animals the amount of blood pumped by the heart during exercise was dependent upon the dilatation of the blood vessels in the exercising muscles. Then, with the digital computer, he developed a model of diagnostic reasoning that could diagnose patients with congenital heart disease more accurately than physicians could without this tool. For this work he received a Career Research Award from the National Institutes of Health and went on to build, with his colleagues at LDS hospital, the first computer-based patient record system (HELP) that incorporated a knowledge base to improve decision-making by physicians and nurses.

Homer founded the journal Computers and Biomedical Research in 1968 and remained its editor for the next 24 years. In 1977 while on sabbatical in Vancouver B.C., he authored a medical informatics textbook still used today. After his department moved to the medical school in 1985, Homer worked with internal medicine faculty to develop a computer program called Iliad, which was used to teach diagnostic skills to medical students. The Homer Warner Center for Informatics Research at Intermountain Medical Center in Salt Lake City continues his pioneering work in computers and medicine.

Homer was not defined solely by his work. His family was his first priority. He was an avid sportsman and loved teaching his children skiing, waterskiing, biking, boating, tennis and later golf. He was a scoutmaster for ten years while his boys were in that program. In 1975 he bought a sail boat and began sailing with his family on the Great Salt Lake and seven years later they completed the Victoria, B.C. to Maui yacht race. The years visiting their condo on Bainbridge Island, WA, and sailing in the San Juan Islands with Kay were memorable. As a devoted member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, he served as Bishop of the Colonial Hills First Ward and later with Kay as medical missionaries in the Western European Area from 1996-7.

His unassuming demeanor, adventurous spirit and new ideas attracted people from all walks of life. Even though he seemed to be able to solve most any problem without help (his golf swing the exception), he sought to include others and give them credit. He had a humble, patient, and gentle nature and took an interest in other people. Homer had a rare mix of intellect and accomplishment coupled with warmth, humor and charm.

After the death of Kay in 2006, Homer married their life-long friend Jeanne Okland in 2009. After her passing he was again fortunate to marry June Okland Cockrell who survives him. The family’s deepest gratitude goes to Jeanne and June for their loving companionship and to their wonderful families. He is preceded in death by his brother, Richard. He is survived by his sister Emma Lou Thayne (Mel) and brother D. Gill Warner (Nedra), and sister-in-law Marian Warner; also children Katherine Black (Richard), Stephen Warner (Elizabeth), Homer Warner, Jr. (Rochelle), Willard Warner (Mary Lee), Ann Bradley (John), and Jodi Wagner (Tom). He and Kay have 23 grandchildren and 39 great-grandchildren.

Funeral Services will be held at noon on Thursday, December 6, 2012, at the Foothill Stake Center, 1933 South 2100 East, Salt Lake City, Utah 84108. Online condolences may be left at www.larkincares.com.

Communications with the family or scholarship donations may be directed to Dr. Warner’s son, Steve Warner, Homer R. Warner Scholarship Fund in Medical Informatics, University of Utah, 540 Arapeen Drive, Salt Lake City, Utah, 84108.