John Feagin Jr., MD
Dr. John A. Feagin Jr. died peacefully at the age of 85 on September 1, 2019 at his home in Jackson Hole, WY, amid friends and family. Born on May 9, 1934, he was the son of the late COL John A. Feagin, Sr. and Katherine Terrell Feagin.
Dr. Feagin was a 1955 graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point. Following two years as an Army artillery officer, he was offered admission to the Duke University School of Medicine by Dean Wilburt Davison. He was the first West Point graduate to attend medical school while on active duty.
Following graduation from Duke in 1961, Dr. Feagin completed a surgery internship at Tripler Army Medical Center in Hawaii, followed by an orthopaedic surgery residency at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. He served as an orthopaedic surgeon in Vietnam 1966-67 with the 85th Evacuation Hospital in Qui Nhon.
Dr. Feagin returned to West Point and served as an orthopaedic surgeon at Keller Army Hospital and team physician for the Army athletic teams from 1967-72. He then completed a fellowship in hip replacement surgery in England with Sir John Charnley at Wrightington Hospital. Following his fellowship, Dr. Feagin was assigned to the orthopaedic teaching staff at Letterman Army Medical Center from 1973 to 1978. He retired from the Army as a Colonel in 1979 after a final assignment at West Point as the Commander of Keller Army Hospital.
Dr. Feagin practiced orthopaedic surgery in Jackson, WY from 1979 to 1989. During this time he also served as team physician for U.S. Olympic teams and the U.S. Ski Team.
Dr. Feagin returned to Duke in 1989 as Associate Professor of Surgery and team physician for Duke Athletics. Notably, Dr. Feagin reunited with Head Men’s Basketball Coach Mike Krzyzewski, who had been a basketball player at West Point when Dr. Feagin was team physician. He retired from clinical practice in 1999 and remained on the Duke faculty as Associate Professor Emeritus of Orthopaedic Surgery.
In retirement, Dr. Feagin continued to do what he loved – fly and teach. His solo transatlantic flight in his four-seat, single-engine Cessna 172 was topped only by his successful solo transatlantic return in the same plane. His lifelong love of teaching continued as he volunteered his time to instruct and enrich the lives of medical students, residents, fellows and faculty at Duke, West Point, and the Steadman Clinic in Vail, CO, where he lived until returning to Jackson Hole in 2015.
In 2009, the Feagin Leadership Program was established at Duke University to honor and build on Dr. Feagin’s legacy of leadership in medicine. While he served as the inspiration for the Program created to honor him, he also was its biggest supporter. He remained active mentoring the Feagin Scholars throughout the last ten years of his life. The Program is in its 11th year of preparing and inspiring young medical professionals for their leadership challenges in healthcare and in life. To many, this Program is the culmination of Dr. Feagin’s professional life work, tying together leadership, education, collaboration, patient care and ethical values.
Dr. Feagin was a leader locally, nationally and internationally. In addition to his military service, he was president of the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine (AOSSM); with Professor Werner Mueller, he founded and was a godfather for the AOSSM Sports Medicine Traveling Fellowship Program; and he was a member of the United States Military Academy Board of Trustees. His contributions were recognized through numerous awards including the United States Military Academy’s Distinguished Graduate Award, and induction in to the Army Sports Hall of Fame and the AOSSM Hall of Fame.
Dr. Feagin humbly influenced an entire generation of orthopaedic surgeons worldwide in ways that transformed the understanding and treatment of knee injuries. He was a founding member of both the Anterior Cruciate Ligament Study Group and the International Knee Documentation Committee. His book, The Crucial Ligaments, remains the standard text on ligamentous injuries of the knee.
Of all his contributions, Dr. Feagin’s greatest were to those he mentored. He made every new acquaintance an immediate friend, and his love and generosity led to countless friendships throughout the world. He was an exemplar of patient-centered, selfless leadership and his legacy lives on through the thousands of people he influenced for the better throughout his life.
Dr. Feagin remained forever grateful to his family for sharing his life’s journey, and for his friends, colleagues and extended family for tolerating his peripatetic course. He always tried to live the West Point Cadet Prayer: “Encourage us in our endeavor to live above the common level of life. Make us to choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong. … And grant us new ties of friendship and new opportunities of service.” In the words of the West Point Alma Mater, “May it be said, ‘Well done; Be thou at peace.’”
Dr. Feagin is survived by his children Randle (Melissa) Feagin; Robert (Susan Temple) Feagin; and Nancy (Jonathan Carpenter) Feagin; and grandchildren Whitney Feagin; Lillian and Walter Duquette, and Helen Feagin; and Connor Carpenter. He is also survived by Martha Feagin, his former wife, lifelong partner in family, and champion supporter; sister Katherine Jeter; nieces and nephews; and so many extended cousins, family and friends that he cherished.
Dr. Feagin’s life will be celebrated in a memorial service at the United States Military Academy Chapel, West Point, NY in November.