Dr. Ralph L. Warren, a surgeon whose practice stretched from the urban confines of Boston, to the battlefields of Iraq, to the Navajo country of New Mexico and Arizona, died Wednesday, December 2, 2009 in Gallup, New Mexico, after a long illness. He was 55.
Born on September 28, 1954, Dr. Warren was raised in Short Hills, NJ, and graduated from The Pingry School in Hillside, NJ. He attended Harvard College, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, and Harvard Medical School, where he earned his M.D. degree in 1981. He trained in General Surgery and then in Cardiothoracic Surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston
From 1989 through 2000, Dr. Warren practiced General Surgery at Massachusetts General, where he served as Chief of the Surgical Intensive Care Unit. In 2000, he left Boston to take a position with the Indian Health Service at the Gallup Indian Medical Center in Gallup, NM. For the last nine years of his life he dedicated himself to the care of the Navajo, Hopi, Zuni, and Pueblo peoples served by the Gallup hospital. A talented linguist proficient in six languages, Warren distinguished himself by becoming conversant in the Navajo language, a feat rarely achieved by bilagaana (non-Navajos).
In 1990 Warren joined the Massachusetts Air National Guard as a Flight Surgeon, and served in that capacity for 10 years. During Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, he filled in the backlines at Andrews Air Force Base. His service with the National Guard took him several times to the Antarctic, where he served as the physician for National Guard personnel at McMurdo Station, as well as on goodwill missions to Guatemala and Ecuador.
Upon relocating to New Mexico in 2000, Warren transferred to the New Mexico Air National Guard, ultimately becoming the State Air Surgeon for New Mexico before retiring from the Guard earlier this year with the rank of Colonel. During his 20 years of service to the Massachusetts and New Mexico Air National Guard units, he logged many hours in both F-15 and F-16 fighters.
Warren completed two tours of duty in Iraq, the first in 2004 and the second in 2005. During the latter tour, Warren served as a trauma surgeon at Balad Air Force Base outside Baghdad and saved the lives of countless wounded American soldiers and Iraqi civilians alike.
He also logged numerous round trips from Iraq to Germany as a physician supervising the airborne evacuation of critically wounded American soldiers to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center at Ramstein Air Force Base outside Frankfurt. Warren never lost a patient while en route from Iraq to Germany.
He was twice awarded a Distinguished Service Medal by the New Mexico Air National Guard, the highest non-combat honor bestowed by the force. Dr. Warren is survived by his two daughters, Maxine F. Warren of Arlington, VA, and Madison F. Warren of Nahant, MA; his father, Edus H. Warren, Jr., of Atlanta, GA; his sisters Ann F. Warren of Freehold, NJ, and Sarah W. Fenton of Basking Ridge, NJ; and his brother, Edus H. Warren, III, of Bainbridge Island, WA.
Godspeed and rest in peace, Dr. Warren. Your selfless service to others will be remembered always. Our thoughts and prayers are with your family.