March 30, 2015

Last SCPMG founding partner Rene Cailliet, MD, dies at 97

Contributed by Lincoln Cushing, Archivist and Historian

Obituary courtesy Kaiser Permanente Southern California

Dr. Rene Cailliet, M.D., 1981
Dr. Rene Cailliet, M.D., 1981

Rene Cailliet, MD, the last living founding partner of Kaiser Permanente's Southern California Permanente Medical Group, died at age 97 at his Los Angeles area home on March 14.

Dr. Cailliet became one of the founding partners of SCPMG in 1953 and practiced in the Departments of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles and West Los Angeles Medical Centers.

He is widely recognized as a pioneering physician who helped create the specialty of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and is also well-known for a popular series of books on musculoskeletal medicine.

Born in Philadelphia on June 10, 1917, Dr. Cailliet was the son of French immigrants. He received his bachelor of science from Villanova College in Pennsylvania and, after graduating from the University of Southern California Medical School in 1943, Dr. Cailliet served in the U.S. Army during World War II.

Dr. Cailliet also served as director of Rehabilitation Medicine at Santa Monica Hospital Medical Center from 1977 to 1993, and in his retirement became professor-chairman emeritus of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the University of Southern California.

He is survived by his wife of 32 years, Lois Ann, and two sons.

The following is an excerpt of a statement from Dr. Cailliet read by Edward M. Ellison, MD, executive medical director, at SCPMG's 60th anniversary celebration, which Dr. Cailliet attended in September 2013. It received a standing ovation:

"Sixty years ago 13 doctors really took a chance on an idea. After surviving World War II and returning to Los Angeles, we were ready to try an idea for the delivery of medical care to many people and at an affordable price. This would involve a small prepayment but guarantee good and affordable care for all who participated.

"The prevalent model of medical care was that of private practice for each physician. We felt the new ideas deserved a chance and were worth all the effort and treasure we could put into them.

"That I have lived 96 years, with many complications of my health, is a testament to the ideas we had then. Such quality of care is the essence of Kaiser Permanente. My specialty, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, was also a new idea at the time. It was during the war experience that I learned how much was needed to restore the quality of life for the wounded.

"At home, the polio patients also needed help with restoration of function. Much of my time became consumed with lecturing around the country and the world as the 18 books which followed were translated into 11 languages with my own musculoskeletal illustrations. It was the need for education in this area that led me to leave Kaiser after 25 years to devote my time to writing and teaching.

"The dream that we early 'founders' had has grown and become a model for medical organizations throughout the country. I salute you all who continue to make this a great organization, which will live on to care for patients in the best possible ways."