S. Ward Casscells, M.D.
S. Ward Casscells, M.D.

Dr. S. Ward Casscells, the John Edward Tyson Distinguished Professor of Cardiology and vice president for external relations and public policy at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston and senior scholar at the Texas Heart Institute, died Oct. 14, 2012.

Casscells was born March 18, 1952, in Wilmington, Del. He received his undergraduate degree from Yale in 1974 and graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Medical School in 1979.

He joined the Medical School in 1992, where he later held the Levy Professorship and served as chief of cardiology at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center. In 1997, Casscells established the President Bush Center for Cardiovascular Health.

In 2001, he was diagnosed with metastatic prostate cancer and, always a proponent for public health and preventive health, spoke openly about his illness to educate the public. As a cardiologist, he was passionate about informing his patients about the role of inflammation in the body and its destabilizing effects on vulnerable atherosclerotic plaque in the cardiovascular system. He pushed for flu prevention through vaccine campaigns in an effort to reduce heart attack and stroke rates as a result of influenza’s inflammatory process.

In 2006, he sought an “age waiver,” so at age 54 he was commissioned a colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve. Soon afterward, he was deployed to Iraq where he served as medical liaison to then-Commanding General George Casey.

In 2007, as UTHealth’s vice president for biotechnology, Casscells was appointed by President George W. Bush to the position of Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs.

In recognition of his work at the Pentagon, Casscells received the Department of Defense’s highest civilian award, the Distinguished Public Service Medal, as well as the Army’s decoration for Distinguished Civilian Service, the Army’s Order of Military Medical Merit, and the General Maxwell Thurman Award. He also received the Memorial Hermann Health System’s Hero Award, the 2010 Pike Humanitarian Prize, and the 2012 Lifetime Achievement Award in the Life Sciences from the Houston Technology Center.

He is survived by his wife, the former Roxanne Bell; his sons, Samuel Ward IV and Henry; his daughter, Lillian; his brother, Christopher; and his sisters, Anne Casscells and Margaret Casscells-Hamby.