In Remembrance of Vern Enge
By Sharlene George
Vern Enge, founding editor of ADVANCE for Medical Laboratory Professionals, as well as ADVANCE newsmagazines for radiologic technology, health information and respiratory care and sleep medicine, died Jan. 5 at age 68 after a courageous 22-month battle against T-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
A husband, a father, a grandfather, an editor, a mentor, and a friend -- Vern was all of these and more. But our readers knew Vern best as a devoted journalist who spent 2 decades covering the intricacies of respiratory care and sleep medicine. Articles about how the Medicare system's launch affected area hospitals and a psychological profile of one of Pennsylvania's first heart transplant patients are among his copious writing contributions. Many of his articles and editorials appeared in the print and online versions of ADVANCE for Medical Laboratory Professionals.
In his column "Speaking My Mind," Vern never shied from controversial subjects. He was a faithful advocate for respiratory therapists and sleep techs, serving as a voice for the ever-expanding and rapidly changing professions.
And Vern had plenty of that voice. "If a respiratory therapist ever called in with a question about the field, they probably got more than they ever thought they would," said Linda Jones, an ADVANCE editorial coordinator. "It was common to see someone in Vern's office 'in session,' having a deep conversation about anything. Sharing his stories, opinions, experiences, and expertise is part of who Vern is -- always the teacher."
More often than not, those anecdotes took comical spins. Vern maintained his sense of humor and humility throughout his illness. Even when he temporarily lost his voice after a high-powered round of chemo this fall, he'd still write his beloved wife, Mary, humorous notes from his hospital bed.
Vern's sociability was well-known throughout ADVANCE, and he had many other friends who were long-time readers and columnists. Mike Bederka, an ADVANCE editor, frequently receives calls from subscribers who explain how Vern talked them through a tricky situation or offered career advice. "You'll be hard-pressed to find another editor who connected so well with readers on a deeply personal level," Bederka said.
Former ADVANCE columnist Anthony DeWitt, JD, RRT, considered Vern as a friend "unmatched in the areas of empathy and understanding." He also appreciated Vern's skillful editing -- a combination of writing ability, uncanny knack for grammar, and insight into respiratory therapists' clinical worlds. "Vern put up a heroic struggle against an oppressive disease. That he ultimately lost that battle is sad for his family and friends, but even now Vern is in heaven editing something for someone. It was in his DNA to improve everything."
He had prior journalism experience working for daily newspapers in Pennsylvania and North Dakota and for a weekly newspaper in Montana.
EJ Brown, an ADVANCE editor, knew Vern for 25 years and worked with him during those exciting and apprehensive days as ADVANCE launched its first editions. "I've always known Vern to be a good man, one of high principles and of understanding," Brown said. She will remember his words of encouragement, passion for history (especially his Viking roots), and love of people. "He was amazed when he became ill at the outpouring of compassion we all brought him. ... He was just never aware of how much he is loved."
Contact Sharlene George at firstname.lastname@example.org.