January 10, 2022

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In Memoriam: Dr. William B. Lushbaugh

Published on Monday, January 10, 2022

The Medical Center extends its sympathy to the family of a former faculty member in appreciation for the loved one’s contributions to the academic health sciences center.

Dr. William B. Lushbaugh

Portrait of Dr. Bill Lushbaugh

Dr. William Burton “Bill” Lushbaugh, an award-winning microbiology teacher at the Medical Center and a teaching-software guru, died on September 12, 2021. He was 76.

Lushbaugh, who had been with the Medical Center for well over three decades, was living in Frisco, Texas, at the time of his death.

Born in Chicago, he was hardly more than an infant when his family moved to Los Alamos, New Mexico, where his father worked as a pathologist with the U.S. government. In the state where he grew up, he earned a bachelor’s, and then a master’s, degree in biology at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces.

At the LSU School of Medicine in New Orleans, Lushbaugh completed his PhD in the Department of Tropical Medicine and Medical Parasitology. He did post-doctoral work at the University of Georgia before holding various academic appointments or positions at such institutions as the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Charleston, South Carolina, and the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston.

He joined the Medical Center in 1983 as an associate professor of preventive medicine in the Division of Parasitology-Entomology and would hold also academic appointments in Division of Infectious Diseases and the Department of Family Medicine.

The long list of his appointments, committee work and special projects includes his roles as chair of the e-Learning Committee and e-Learning Administrator for the School of Medicine.

“He was key in the long and complex planning that went into the School of Medicine’s new education building,” said Dr. LouAnn Woodward, vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine.

“The planning went on for a long time and involved input from many faculty and students and administrators. Bill was absolutely critical to digesting all of the disparate ‘wants’ into the real needs of the students and the education program. The result is the fine building we enjoy today.

“He was one of the good guys.”

About 10 years after joining UMMC, Lushbaugh transferred to the Department of Microbiology, in 1993, rising to the rank of professor and teaching microbiology for about 18 years, often salting his classroom instruction with a much-appreciated sense of humor conspicuously at odds with the likes of viruses and bacteria.

“He was well-loved by students,” said Dr. Stephen Stray, associate professor of microbiology and immunology, who eventually took over running the microbiology course for Lushbaugh. “No one thought more of the students than Bill Lushbaugh did.

“In fact, I believe all of the medical students had his cell phone number. That was one thing he did that I was determined to never do.”

In other things, Stray was more eager to turn to Lushbaugh as an exemplar. “He was a mentor and friend to me, and I certainly couldn’t have done nearly the things I’ve done in terms of my educational development if it hadn’t been through Bill’s example and encouragement,” said Stray, an award-winning educator.

Lusbaugh’s flair for teaching was also rewarded. Among other honors, he was the Pre-Clinical Professor of the Year, presented by the Alumni Association, in 1986; and one of five Carl C. Evers Society Basic Science All Star Professors of the Year in 1997.

Soon after his move to Mississippi, he met his future wife in a canoe. On Okatoma Creek, during a church-sponsored canoeing trip for singles, he first became acquainted with Janet Spencer, who was working as a chemist for an environmental company at the time.

“He fought to get into my canoe,” she said. “Then we were fighting the rapids through the river of life together for 37 years.”

While living in the Reservoir area of Brandon, Lushbaugh helped Janet bring up her two sons, both of whom earned advanced professional degrees: Dr. Jacob Spencer, whose PhD in American Civilization is from Harvard University, and Dr. Lee Spencer, a psychiatrist and Tulane University School of Medicine graduate.

Lushbaugh’s family includes one brother, Bob Lushbaugh, who died several years ago, and a sister, Nancy Lushbaugh Forbes of Knoxville, Tennessee.

In June 2011, Lushbaugh retired as a professor at UMMC, but remained at the Medical Center doing contract work for the School of Medicine, assisting faculty and staff with teaching apps such as Canvas and Panopto, and eLearning software including Blackboard and Respondus.

Diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, he retired for a second time, in the summer of 2017, and he and Janet moved to Texas in order to live closer to Lee.

Lushbaugh, who loved students, computers, photography and the cringe-worthiest jokes and puns, died exactly three months before he would have turned 77. His ashes rest in the columbarium at St. Peter’s by-the-Lake Episcopal Church in the Reservoir area of Brandon, the site of a memorial service his family held for him on December 12, his birthday.