Pioneering neurosurgeon Dr Charles Fager dies at 90

Charles A. Fager
Charles A. Fager

US Neurosurgery pioneer Charles A. Fager has died peacefully at the age of 90. The record-breaking racehorse Dr Fager was named after him as a yearling, and was later inducted into the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame in the USA.

Charles Fager died on Tuesday, April 8, at his home in Massachusetts. He was known as a compassionate and caring doctor and a masterful clinician.

He was born in New York in 1924, and graduated from the New York State University Downstate Medical Center. He served as a flight surgeon and captain in the United States Air Force after completing his general surgery residency at Syracuse University.

Thereafter, he completed a neurological surgery residency at Lahey Clinic and joined the Neurosurgery Department in 1953, where he spent the remaining 54 years of his career.

Dr Fager held many leading positions in the medical profession and won several awards throughout his career. He also lectured at top medical schools throughout North and South America.  During the last 20 years of his career, he focused his research on patients who had undergone unsuccessful spinal surgery. He performed surgery until age 70 and retired in 2007.

1968 Horse of the Year Dr Fager.
1968 Horse of the Year Dr Fager.

He made more than 130 contributions to medical literature and textbooks. He authored a textbook of neurosurgery, Atlas of Spinal Surgery, and three books, Quality of the Issue, Stop Talking to the Jury and A Hole In The Wind: The Story Of A Man And His Horse.

The latter related the story of the horse Dr Fager, who was born in 1964 and bred by William L McKnight. The horse’s trainer, John Nerud, suffered a head injury when he fell from his horse while ponying on the track. Dr Charles Fager saved Nerud’s life with two operations.

Dr Fager went on to win 18 races from 22 starts, and set a world record for the mile in 1968 when he ran 1min 32sec 1/5 at Arlington Park. At the end of the year, he swept the Horse of the Year awards, winning the champion sprinter, male turf, older male, and the overall Horse of the Year titles. He was leading sire in North American in 1977.

Dr Fager (Rough’n Tumble x Aspidistra) died in 1976 at the age of 12 of a colon obstruction.

Dr Charles Fager is survived by his wife of 66 years, Margaret, their children Chris, Mary Lou and Jeff; ten grandchildren and one great grandchild. His son Greg died earlier this year.


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