Cuthbert Ormond Simpkins

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Cuthbert Ormond Simpkins, II (born August 20, 1947 in Chicago, Illinois), is a physician, biographer and inventor, best known for his work on shock and violence prevention and for his 1975 biography of the jazz musician John Coltrane.

Early years[edit]

Simpkins' father, C. O. Simpkins, Sr., is a dentist from Shreveport, Louisiana, who served a single term from 1992 to 1996 as a Democratic member of the Louisiana House of Representatives from the heavily African American District 4.[1] His mother, the former Dorothy Herndon, is a social worker, also originally from Chicago.

Until he was fourteen, Simpkins, lived with his family in Shreveport, at the time a heavily segregated city. Simpkins, Sr., took an active role in the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Two of their family homes in Shreveport were bombed. The senior Simpkins' malpractice insurance was cancelled and he was denied renewal because he was listed as No. 1 on the death list of racist elements. These events forced the Simpkinses to leave Louisiana. The senior Simpkins later returned to Shreveport; at the age of eighty-eight in a 2013 television interview he denounced the United States Supreme Court decision that invalidated an enforcement provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 with the declaration, "It’s time to fight again."

Simpkins, II, received his undergraduate degree from Amherst College in Amherst, Massachusetts, having graduated with honors in chemistry. In his senior year at Amherst he began work on the biography of American saxophonist and composer John Coltrane. After graduation from Amherst, he earned his medical degree from Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, from which he graduated in 1974. At Harvard, he finished the book Coltrane: A Biography, which was published in 1975. Another biography of Coltrane, Chasin’ the Trane by J. C. Thomas was published in the same year. It is not clear which book was published first. Coltrane: A Biography was well received by major media critics such as Mel Watkins who wrote in The New York Times Saturday book review section, “Dr. Simpkins very often accomplishes something that few other jazz biographers have done: He narratively simulates the emotional effect of the subject’s music.” Other favorable reviews included:

Berkley Barb “We are always made to see the political and cultural context in which Trane lived. Blues, religion, black power, Africa… In reading it, one not only learns about Trane, but senses what it was like to hear him. To be alive with him…At last a fine Coltrane Biography.”

Amsterdam News (New York) "This book reveals Dr. Simpkins as a literary talent worthy of attention”

Essence Magazine “Coltrane? What do I say? One helluva book.”

Ediciones Jucar, published a Spanish translation in 1985.

A review was published in the June 3, 2014 online version of the Paris Review by documentarian Sam Stephenson.

Coltrane biography[edit]

The book includes many first-hand interviews with notable individuals, including Coltrane's first wife, Naima. Coltrane: A Biography also demonstrates the major influence of Christianity, Islam and Hinduism on the jazz musicians of the time. This documentation has special significance in understanding the dynamics of the expansion of Islam and current geopolitics. The influence of Black Nationalism, rooted in the teaching of Marcus Garvey, is expressed by Coltrane through his admiration for Malcolm X. The book contains engaging information about the experimental composer and musicians, Sun Ra and Ornette Coleman. Coltrane’s strong affirmation of the African-American struggle for freedom was revealed in greater detail in his 1962 letter to jazz journalist Don DeMichael. Inexplicably this letter, written with passion by Coltrane was not included in later Coltrane biographies. The significance of this letter was the focus of a chapter in a book entitled "John Coltrane & Black America's Quest for Freedom" by Leonard Brown PhD a professor and musician at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts. This chapter also contains a brief interview with Simpkins about his book.

Surgical career[edit]

Simpkins' completed his surgical training in 1980 at St. Luke's Hospital in New York City and Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn. After his surgical training he did research fellowships at the Boston University School of Medicine and the Naval Medical Research Institute in Bethesda, Maryland. While in the United States Navy, Simpkins achieved the rank of Commander and received two commendations for excellence in research. Simpkins is board certified in General Surgery with certification in critical care. He is also a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons and an honorary member of the Eastern Association for the Surgery of Trauma. Dr. Simpkins has consistently been a strong advocate for the provision of the best care possible for patients. This advocacy led to retaliation at the now defunct D.C. General Hospital in Washington, D.C., where he worked from 1987 to 1991. D C General retaliated by sending misleading and false information to the National Practitioner’s databank without any basis or hospital process and in violation of its bylaws. Dr. Simpkins sued the databank and DC General Hospital in U.S. District Court. He won after the actions of the defendants were determined to have been “capricious and arbitrary”. Dr. Simpkins’ name was ordered removed from the databank. He may be the only physician whose name was ever removed from this listing.

Simpkins’ victimization by DC General Hospital and subsequent legal victory was celebrated by organizations that had been formed to defend physicians against “sham peer review”. Sham peer review or malicious peer review is a name given to the abuse of a medical peer review process to attack a doctor for personal or other non-medical reasons. Dr. Lawrence Huntoon Chairman of the American Association of Physicians and Surgeons Committee to Combat Sham Peer Review has written extensively on this subject,

Simpkins’ case can be found on the websites of other organizations that have been formed in the wake of numerous instances of hospital processes that are manipulated to serve the self-interest of internal hospital forces, individual physicians and staff rather than the interests of patients. Examples of these organizations are: The Center for Peer Review Justice ( and The Semmelweis Society ( named after the Hungarian physician, Ignaz Semmelweis who was attacked by the medical establishment because of his campaign to require that surgeons wash their hands before operating, an obvious practice today that was not in favor in the mid 19th century.

He has made original scientific contributions concerning the pathophysiology of shock and violence prevention. In 1993, he designed and established the Violence Intervention Program (VIP) which continues at the R. Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, Maryland. Under this program a masters level social worker, Ms. Mary Hampton, interviewed hospitalized victims when they recovered sufficiently to converse. From this interview Ms. Hampton would obtain an extensive personal history and an individualized plan of intensive case management and counseling. After discharge from the hospital, the intervention continued with Ms. Hampton making home visits and conducting group sessions. The purpose of the intervention was to prepare the patient for employment and maintenance of employment once a job was secured. The first year results were encouraging. Simpkins left Shock Trauma for the State University of New York School of Medicine in Buffalo.

Simpkins remained in Buffalo from 1994 to 2000. His studies of resuscitation fluids began there when he became interested in the effect of suspending cells in Ringer’s lactate. Ringer’s lactate is the resuscitation fluid recommended by the American College of Surgeons for patients who have lost a large amount of blood. He was motivated to study resuscitation fluids because of patients he had seen die even after the successful surgical repair of their injuries. Simpkins felt that the cause of these deaths could be found in the adverse effects of fluids used to restore lost bloodvolume. Also while seeing trauma patients in the Emergency Department of the Erie County Medical Center Dr. Simpkins was told by several patients and a husband and wife that the police had pepper sprayed them in the nose and mouth while handcuffed. Some patients reported that while handcuffed their eyelids were forced open while a policeman sprayed pepper spray into their eye. Simpkins noted that these patients had intense and painful inflammation localized to the nose and mouth that exceeded the expected response to pepper spray discharged at a short distance from the face. Simpkins concluded that these injuries were consistent with the patient’s stories. Reports of his observations in the press led to an investigation of the Buffalo City Police Department by the US Department of Justice. Complaints of the misuse of pepper spray stopped soon after this investigation, that found the Department at fault. Simpkins continued his studies on Violence Prevention by collaborating with the departments of Social Work and Anthropology at the State University of New York at Buffalo. One of the results of these studies conducted with John Wodarski PhD was the finding of untreated psychiatric pathology in victims of violence. Also anthropologist Robert Knox Dentan PhD exposed him to the existence of still extant societies in which physical violence was not practiced. With these studies Simpkins realized that the problem of violence in the United States was primarily a problem of mental health that stemmed from sociological conditions and societal values.

In 2006 Carnell Cooper MD who assumed the leadership of the Violence Intervention Program after Simpkins’ departure from the University of Maryland School of Medicine at Baltimore published a study of the efficacy of the Violence Intervention Program that Simpkins had established. This study entitled, "Hospital Based Violence Intervention Programs Work", was published in the Journal of Trauma Volume 61 pages 534-537. The result of the study was that the program led to a significant reduction in the number of arrests for a violent crime and a reduction in the incidents of repeat violence requiring hospitalization. These reductions led to substantial savings in costs for incarceration and hospitalization for the state of Maryland. The program continues today.

After leaving Buffalo Simpkins continued his research into resuscitation fluids while holding teaching positions as a trauma surgeon at the Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow, New York and Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in Lubbock Texas. He returned to his hometown, Shreveport, Louisiana in 2004 as the Chief of Trauma and Surgical Critical Care. While at LSU his leadership resulted in the restoration of the institution’s certification by the American College of Surgeons as an adult level one trauma center. Simpkins’ leadership also resulted in the granting of a new designation to LSU Health Sciences Center as a pediatric level one-trauma center. In addition he established the Surgical Critical Care Team and collaborated with the hospital Infection Control Committee, and SICU nurses to reduce the previously high infection rate to rates that were consistently well below the national average. He established a Violence Prevention Program and a monthly statewide Trauma/Critical Care Teleconference. However while at LSU in spite of his successes in modernizing and upgrading the program Simpkins met fierce oppositionfrom some of the established faculty to the changes he had made to improve the patient care in the trauma program. Another source of opposition was the written reports Simpkins made to the appropriate officials within LSU of incidents of patient neglect and incompetence on the part of some of the faculty who treated trauma patients. He demanded respect for patients in the Emergency Department and opposed physical abuse of patients in the Emergency Department, an ongoing practice in the ER that was permitted by the institutional leadership. The persistent opposition of the leadership to Dr. Simpkins led to an incident in 2006 in which the hospital credentialing process was maliciously exploited in an attempt to discredit him. Simpkins again was a victim of sham peer review. Simpkins attempted to address the falsehoods that were generated from these actions through internal processes ultimately writing letters to the LSU Board and President in an appeal to be treated fairly. When there was no response he sued LSU Health Sciences Center. In spite of the lawsuit the leadership and faculty allies in Shreveport persisted with their actions. While the leadership fiercely opposed him Simpkins was recognized for his teaching skills by the LSU students and surgery residents who awarded him with the “Best Faculty Teacher Award” in 2007. In addition, on Christmas 2007 Simpkins was given a tribute by the nurses in the ICU that stated in part,

May These Seven Little Candles, Represent Seven Days a Week, That You Often Were The Only One, A Trauma Stat Could Seek

Your Sole Focus Was On Saving Once Again Another Man, No One Saw The Candle Burning, At Both Ends We Understand.

In July 2008, the LSU hospital administration gave Dr. Simpkins the “Team Recognition Award” for “…commitment to excellence in the care and treatment of our patients, their families and our guests.” The award further noted his “… positive attitude and caring spirit”. In 2009 Simpkins five-year contract with LSU Health Sciences Center expired and was not renewed without explanation. After his departure several unaddressed adverse events occurred in the management of trauma and other patients. Physical abuse of patients also continued. By 2012 LSU Health Sciences Center had lost its level one status in both adult and pediatric trauma.

After 2009 Simpkins joined forces with Ms. Lessie Black a retired clerk supervisor in the LSU Health Sciences Center Emergency Department who had organized the Louisiana Citizens for HealthCare Reform. Ms. Black had documented instances of the physical abuse of patients in the Emergency Department. Both she and Dr. Simpkins collaborated in a campaign to stop the abuse of patients and to improve patient care at the medical center. Their efforts were for the most part ignored by the Shreveport Times, the major area newspaper, but were extensively covered by the smaller but highly regarded Shreveport Sun. In February 2010 Simpkins’ lawsuit against LSU went to trial. This process ended in a mistrial after 4 jurors declared that they were never going to vote against LSU regardless of the evidence which favored Dr. Simpkins. In 2012 facing a retrial brought by Simpkins, LSU settled with him.

Recent developments[edit]

Coltrane Biography[edit]

There has been debate between Simpkins and a later Coltrane biographer, Lewis Porter. Simpkins statement below appeared in the online Jazz Journal All That Jazz in an Victor Sheerer entitled, Tranography: A Juxtaposition of Apparent Conflicts Between Two Biographies [2]

"I have tried to resolve the differences between the details of my account of Coltrane's life and that of Mr. Porter's. There are some issues which need further work to resolve. It appears that Mr. Porter's claims that he corrected “numerous errors” are not supportable by the evidence. Particularly egregious is his misinformation about liver cancer. I would have been delighted to have been given the opportunity to assist him and help him in any way possible. But he chose to make his claims of errors without checking with those who came before him. Therefore, within the pages of John Coltrane: His Life and Music new errors have been created and resolvable issues have been left unresolved. At this point I hope that those who write about Coltrane can be gracious and open like him, and work together to compare notes and sources and bring us closer to the truth about some important details of Coltrane's life."

Dr. Porter's response to Dr. Simpkins was published in 2004[3]

In 2009 the Jazz Archive at Duke University announced the acquisition and availability of the tapes of interviews Dr. Simpkins had conducted in the course of doing research for his biography of John Coltrane. The interviews were conducted between 1971 and 1974. They include a spoken record of those who knew Coltrane as well as numerous contributors to the development of modern Jazz.

Patents for Phospholipid Nanoparticle Based Resuscitation Fluid[edit]

Since his departure from LSU Health Sciences Center Simpkins has focused on the development of his biotechnology company, Vivacelle Bio. Vivacelle Bio was organized for the purpose of commercializing a new resuscitation fluid, developed by Dr. Simpkins, that is based on phospholipid nanoparticles. His experiments showed that this resuscitation fluid, named VBI-1, could be used safely to replace most of the circulating blood volume. His experiments, in collaboration with physicist Juan Rodriguez, also showed that this resuscitation fluid readily absorbed and released nitric oxide. Moreover, in animal experiments VBI-1 was superior to the standard, Ringer’s lactate in reversing hypovolemia after blood loss and restoring the blood pressure. VBI-1 also protected organs from reperfusion injury. Two publications resulted from this research, to date. On November 22, 2011 Simpkins was granted his first patent, US patent #8063020. This fluid is designed to promote survival after hypovolemic shock for any reason such as blood loss, massive infection, neurological injury, acute radiation injury, burns or childhood diarrhea. At this point the blood substitutes, blood products, hetastarch based colloids, albumin and hypertonic solutions have all been shown to have significant complications. In contrast, all of the components of VBI-1 are naturally occurring and/or metabolizable. To date tests have shown the safety profile of VBI-1 to be superior to all other resuscitation fluids including blood and Ringer's lactate. Since 2011 multiple US and international patents for VBI-1 and its derivatives have been granted to Dr. Simpkins.

Personal life[edit]

Simpkins has been married since June 23, 1983 to Diane Phipps of New Brunswick, New Jersey. He and his wife currently reside in Shreveport, Louisiana. Previously, he was married to Ruby Carroll M.D. of Maringouin, Louisiana and Carol Garrett of New York City. Both marriages ended in divorce.


External links[edit]

Recent Reviews of Coltrane: A Biography

Paris Review

Music and More