Thomas Eugene Piemme
December 3, 1932 – April 17, 2021
Thomas E. Piemme, MD, 88, passed away on April 17, 2021 at the Montecito Senior Living community in Peoria, Arizona. Dr. Piemme was born, December 3, 1932, in Beaver Pennsylvania. He attended college and medical school at the University of Pittsburgh. He was then trained in internal medicine at Pitt, and cardiology at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston.
He spent two years in the U.S. Air Force at the Aerospace Medical Research Laboratory at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, where he did research on the physiologic effects of prolonged weightlessness in anticipation of the NASA Apollo missions.
Following military service, he returned to the University of Pittsburgh where he assumed responsibility for outpatient services of the Department of Medicine. It was 1966, the year that Medicare and Medicaid became law. He became interested in newer concepts of providing more efficient and effective primary care of patients, and looked for a chance to innovate.
In 1970 he moved to the George Washington University where he was invited to found a new Division of General Medicine, which provided the opportunity to implement these concepts. He developed one of the early physician assistant training programs; established a university-based pre-paid health plan in cooperation with Blue Cross/Blue Shield, and the government of the District of Columbia; and pioneered in creating a primary care internal medicine residency training program.
Meanwhile, the physician assistant concept gained huge national support. Stimulated by Congressional funding, there was an exponential growth in new training programs. In 1973, Dr. Piemme was elected president of the Physician Assistant Education Association, and a year later, the founding president of the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA), responsible for examination of PAs for licensure. He remained involved with the NCCPA for more than 25 years. In 2017, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Physician Assistant Education Association.
Following a year of sabbatical leave, in 1977 his career shifted. He was asked to become the Director (later Associate Dean) for Continuing Medical Education at George Washington. In 1979, his office was asked to manage a meeting of regional computer scientists in medicine, entitled, the Symposium on Computer Applications in Medical Care (SCAMC). Dr. Piemme recognized that the subject matter of the conference would be of great interest to far more than the regional audience for which it had been intended. It was the year that Apple and Microsoft introduced the first desktop microcomputers. Within two years, the meeting was attracting more than 2000 participants. The committee that had organized the meeting incorporated, and asked Dr. Piemme to assume a role as Executive Director. For a decade SCAMC dominated the field of “medical informatics” in the United States.
In 1983 Dr. Piemme, together with a group of leading medical computer science colleagues, inaugurated the American College of Medical Informatics (ACMI), consisting at first of 50 leaders in this relatively new academic field. Dr. Piemme served as the first Secretary of the College.
In 1983, as well, the International Medical Informatics Association (IMIA) designated Washington, DC as the location for its 5th World Congress on Medical Informatics (MEDINFO) to be held in 1986. The Organizing Committee, in turn, asked the GWU Office of CME to provide meeting management services.
In 1989 SCAMC, together with the College and a smaller computer science membership society, merged to form the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) – analogous to the international organization that had produced MEDINFO. Dr. Piemme was appointed as a US representative to IMIA, resulting in more than a decade of international involvement.
In the late 1980s, the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME) moved toward computer-based examinations, Dr. Piemme was appointed Chair of a Computer Based Test Committee, charged with designing patient simulations. At the George Washington University he was appointed Chair of a Department of Computer Medicine. He was the author of an influential monograph entitled, “Executive Management of Computer Resources in the Academic Health Center,” commissioned by the Association of Academic Health Centers (AAHC). Among other publication were numerous articles on the use of computers in teaching and testing in medical education.
Dr. Piemme retired as emeritus professor in 1999. A few years later, he and his wife Judy moved to Sun City Grand in Surprise, Arizona. Part of the attraction to Grand was the “Drama and Comedy Club,” the community theater company. It gave him the opportunity to reopen an earlier chapter in his life.
As a teen-ager Dr. Piemme had been the resident “juvenile” with a community theater group in Beaver, Pennsylvania that was being revived following World War II. In addition to mainstage productions, he performed in one act plays that toured meetings of church, civic, and other membership organizations in the Western Pennsylvania region. He began taking acting lessons, and performing through high school and college. Although abandoning acting for a career in medicine, he developed a devotion to professional theater during his time in Pittsburgh, Boston, Washington - and in New York which he visited, usually twice a year, throughout his lifetime.
Winning auditions, Dr. Piemme began playing major roles with the Sun City Grand Drama Club. In 2007, he was elected President of the club, serving for three years, during which he became the producer of musicals, as well as plays. He has subsequently acted with Mountain Shadows (no longer active) and Ghostlight Theaters. For his performances, he has received nominations from the ariZoni Theater Awards of Excellence as best actor in a major role in a play on two occasions, and as best actor in a supporting role on one occasion.
Ten years ago Dr. Piemme became an “adjudicator” for the ariZoni Awards. Recently he had been working with Stage Left Productions in their marketing efforts with the Independent newspapers.
Dr. Piemme was predeceased by his wife Judy two years ago. He is survived by a son Geoffrey Piemme of Bethesda, MD; a daughter Jennifer Piemme of Boston MA; a daughter Karen Altree Piemme of San Jose, CA; and four granddaughters.
No public services are scheduled at this time. Receive a notification when services are updated.
Thomas Eugene Piemme
April 22, 2021
Thank you Dr. Piemme for your vision, passion, advocacy and grit as you worked with others to create the profession I love so dearly. A true pioneer you had strength to push forward even when it was not easy or the cool thing to do. I am honored to have been able to work with you and learn from you. May your memory be a blessing.
April 22, 2021
I have many wonderful memories with Tom and Judy since we met at our art gallery over 40 yrs ago. Visits to New York for both art and Broadway shows are loving memories.
Tom and I were among the first to attend the opening day of FedEx Field with the then Washington Redskin Football team. Tom was a human stats computer! He could tell you the age, background and current stats on almost any football player.
Tom's love of theater brought him a joy you rarely see in the average theater goer. He happily donated a number of his personal art selections to a local theater he was closely associated with in both management and acting.
Tom was a dear friend who I miss now and the tomorrows.
Justine Strand de Oliveira
April 20, 2021
All PAs owe Dr. Piemme a debt of gratitude for his advocacy of the PA profession, long before it was "cool." We remember him with fondness and admiration. Deepest condolences to Dr. Piemme's family and friends.
April 19, 2021
Geoff, Jen, Karen, and Joan: Pat and I hope Tom's final days were peaceful and without discomfort. He lived a long and productive life. One to be proud of. Though we haven't been in touch in quite a while, I still look back fondly to those carefree days on the Cavalier's beach and our families enjoying the week together. I hope my children look back at time spent with family in the same way. You are in our thoughts. Love Kurt and Pat Smith