BOSTON (AP) – Dr. Erwin Hirsch, a renowned trauma surgeon who saved lives from the jungles of Vietnam to the streets of Boston, drowned in a boating accident Friday. He was 72.

Hirsch, the longtime chief of Boston Medical Center’s trauma surgery unit, died after the dinghy he was in capsized in 48-degree waters off the Maine coast in Rockport Harbor at about 3 p.m.

He was unconscious when he was pulled from the water Friday afternoon. He was later pronounced dead at Penobscot Bay Medical Center.

Hirsch, who lived in Marblehead, served as head of trauma surgery at the hospital for more than 25 years, helping treat victims of car crashes, gunshot wounds and accidents.

He was also a professor of surgery at Boston University School of Medicine.

Elaine Ullian, president and CEO of Boston Medical Center, said the hospital was shocked and saddened by the news.

She said Hirsch embodied the hospital’s mission of providing exceptional care to everyone who walked through its doors. The hospital, formerly known as Boston City Hospital, has a long history of helping the city’s neediest.

“He was a talented surgeon whose primary focus was advancing the treatment of trauma victims,” she said. “Many people are alive today because of the work of Dr. Hirsch and the trauma team at BMC.”

Hirsch’s influence was felt far beyond the streets of Boston.

Hirsch helped develop and teach an emergency medical care program for providers and instructors in Armenia and other countries. He also helped pioneer teleconferencing as a medical education and clinical consultation tool.

Hirsch was also an avid sailor who used his time on the water to unwind from the pressures of the emergency room.

In 1989, Hirsch helped treat one of Boston’s most notorious killers, Charles Stuart, who inflamed racial tensions when he shot himself and shot and killed his pregnant wife, Carol, telling police they had been attacked by a black robber.

Hirsch grew up in Germany and Argentina, served as one of the top surgeons at a Navy Hospital during the Vietnam War and later moved to Boston, married and had two children.

Information from: The Boston Globe,

AP-ES-05-24-08 1447EDT

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