Passing of Joseph Greenfield, professor and chair emeritus

Thursday, October 15, 2020
In memoriam: Joseph Greenfield

Joseph Greenfield, MD, James B. Duke Distinguished Professor of Medicine and chair of the Department of Medicine from 1983 to 1995, died on Wed., Oct. 14, 2020. He was 89.

Dr. Greenfield received his medical degree from Emory University in 1956 and completed his internal medicine residency at Duke University in 1959. He joined the National Institutes of Health (NIH) before returning to Duke as assistant professor in 1962.

In addition to his role as chair, Greenfield served in numerous other leadership positions including chief of Cardiology at the Durham Veteran’s Administration Hospital from 1963 to 1983, chief of the Division of Cardiology at Duke University Medical Center from 1981 to 1989, and director of the ECG service at Duke from 1971 to 2001 and at the Veteran’s Administration Hospital from 1996 until he retired in 2017.

The Department of Medicine honored the "Greenfield Era in Medicine" at a special session of Medicine Grand Rounds in 2017.

Greenfield was a pioneer in cardiovascular medicine, promoting innovative care models and studying reperfusion therapies in acute coronary syndromes. He created new, forward-thinking care paradigms to ensure that rural areas had access to emergent cardiovascular care by sending cardiologists on helicopters to outlying hospitals to administer thrombolytic therapy.

With the goal of delivering more efficient acute myocardial infarction care, Greenfield reorganized the cardiac catheterization lab to be adjacent to Duke University Hospital’s emergency room. He advocated for greater use of randomized clinical trials and patient data registries to advance knowledge and improve patient care. Over his career, Greenfield authored more than 150 research articles.

Greenfield was passionately committed to the professional development of faculty and trainees and will be remembered as great mentor. He started the Greenfield Scholars Program that continues to support many resident and junior faculty research careers. In his honor, the Department of Medicine established the Joseph Greenfield Research Mentorship Award to recognize faculty members who excel in research mentorship.

In 1984, Greenfield was awarded the Distinguished Science Award from the American College of Cardiology and Duke’s Eugene A. Stead Award for excellence in teaching (and again in 1995). He received the MERIT Award from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute in 1986. In 1990, he became a member of the National Academy of Medicine.


The Joseph C. Greenfield Endowment honors Chair Emeritus and James B. Duke Professor of Medicine, Dr. Joseph C. Greenfield. This fund provides support for chief residents in the Department of Medicine, at the discretion of the Stead-Greenfield Research Scholar Committee and the Chair of the Department of Medicine. Make a gift.