In Memory: Gordon H. Deckert MD

Gordon Deckert was born in South Dakota on May 18, 1930, and died at the age of 90 on June 10, 2020.  His family moved to New Mexico during his high school years, where he met and married his wife, Jane.  They had two sons (Chet and Carl with his wife Lori) and five grandchildren.  He graduated from Northwestern Medical School, was a member of Alpha Omega Alpha and Sigma Xi.  He later was named Distinguished Alumni Professor and in 1996 was commencement speaker at his alma mater.  Following an internship in Chicago, he was a Fellow in Medicine at the Mayo Clinic.  After a tour in the Air Force, he stayed in Oklahoma for training in psychiatry, joined the faculty in 1962 and served as Professor and Head of the Department from 1969 to 1986.

Gordon’s passion was education.  His educational materials had national acclaim. He has been revered by generations of OU College of Medicine graduates for his riveting lectures and dramatizations that we will never forget: "The Psychological Journey of a Medical Student." “In the Beginning was the Face.” His priceless lectures were accentuated by jumping on tables to make a point, spitting in his hand, and roleplaying colorful characters with his wife Jane. And for lay audiences around the country: "Sex Is Not a Four-Letter Word," "Life in a Global Village" and countless others. Some called him “The Mark Twain of Medicine.”

Over the years, Dr. Deckert received many awards for excellence in teaching from his students and from his university, including the Regents Award in 1971, a David Ross Boyd Professorship in 1983, and the Edgar W. Young Lifetime Achievement Award in 1992.  He was Program Director for the Oklahoma Model for Medical Education in the Twenty-First Century from 1990 to 1992. In 1997, the Oklahoma Medical Alumni Association named him Academic Physician of the Year.

Dr. Deckert served his profession in numerous roles.  He was past chief of staff of the University Hospital and Clinics, a Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association and the American College of Psychiatrists and a founding member of the Association of Academic Psychiatry.  He has had major responsibilities with the National Board of Medical Examiners. Almost all medical schools have implemented the simulated patient educational method that he pioneered into their curriculum.  In 1987, Dr. Deckert became the sixth individual in the 20th century to receive the Board’s Distinguished Service Award. 

Public health was another passion of Gordon.  He campaigned vigorously for improved public health policies and practices.  The Oklahoma State Medical Association honored him with their Community Service Award for his role “in the development, formulation and presentation of the State of the State’s Health Report, and as mentor and instigator in the development of the Physicians’ Campaign for a Healthier Oklahoma.”  He also received OSMA’s Physicians’ Campaign for a Healthier Oklahoma Prevention Into Practice Award in 2014 for excellence in promoting clinical prevention and wellness education to improve the overall health and well-being of patients, and was featured as a leader in medicine by the Journal of the Oklahoma State Medical Association. The University of Oklahoma’s College of Public Health selected him to receive a Public Health Excellence Award during their 5th Annual Evening of Excellence. In 2003, the Oklahoma Public Health Association presented him with their Outstanding Contribution to the Field of Public Health Award “for his career of dedicated service in the field of public health.” 

In 2004 he was named the first state Champion of Health at what has become an annual event sponsored by Blue Cross and Blue Shield, The Oklahoma Hospital Association, the State Medical Association, the State Osteopathic Association and the Department of Health.  He was named to The Advisory Board of The College of Health as chair of the committee charged by the state to develop a State Health Plan, and served on the The Governor’s Task Force to Eliminate Health Disparities.  In 2008, he received The Distinguished Medical Service Award during the annual Evening of Excellence sponsored by The University of Oklahoma College of Medicine and The Alumni Organization.

Gordon Deckert’s spirit lives on in the memories of the many physicians he taught and entertained, but will also be felt by future physicians. He enriched our education and our medical practices by helping us understand the human side of the doctor-patient relationship as well as the importance of public health education, practices and policies.

Phebe Tucker, MD and D. Robert McCaffree, MD