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Published on March 06, 2013

Dr. Barbara Chaffee remembered as pioneer, leader and patient advocate

UHS physician Barbara Chaffee, MD, MPH, who died March 6, is being remembered as "an exceptionally well-respected healthcare provider, vigilant advocate and role model." 

"Through her work and the example of her life, Dr. Chaffee was an inspiration to many at UHS and in our community," said Matthew J. Salanger, president and chief executive officer of UHS. "She made an indelible impact on her patients and their families and on her colleagues in the medical field. Throughout her career, she set very high standards in the treatment of all persons, and inspired others to join her in the pursuit of excellence."

During her career, Dr. Chaffee was the recipient of several honors, including the UHS Foundation's 2009 Women Fore Women Health Leadership Award and the UHS Hospitals Medical Staff's 2010 James L. Palmer, MD, Award.

She joined the UHS organization in 1984, was director of the Professional Practice Committee and served for 12 years as a member of the UHS Hospitals Board of Directors.

An internal medicine specialist, she became medical director of Addiction Services at UHS Hospitals, succeeding addictions-treatment pioneer Dr. Palmer on his retirement, and later was medical director of UHS Primary Care Binghamton's internal medicine practice.

“She gives tirelessly to our community and continuously advances women’s health," one colleague said of her in 2009.  "She is primary care physician to hundreds of women and daily educates them in cancer prevention and surveillance, while being ever-vigilant in assuring the highest level of treatment for cancer diagnoses.” 

Betsy Pietriyk, executive director of the UHS Foundation, said that when Dr. Chaffee's name was advanced for the Women Fore Women honor, "her nominator listed 22 words and phrases that describe Dr. Chaffee’s virtues, including determined, idealistic, inquisitive, compassionate, spiritual and persistent."

"On a personal level, she was a beloved wife, an extraordinary mother and the epitome of a wonderful grandmother," Betsy said.  "At work, she was a mentor of kindness to her staff."

Dr. Chaffee was perhaps most widely known for pioneering a program to comprehensively care for patients with HIV/AIDS when the epidemic first emerged in the 1980s.

She received the Palmer Award in recognition of her outstanding efforts in the fight against alcoholism and other forms of substance abuse, as well as her commitment to dealing with the AIDS crisis.

In presenting the award, Michael Wolff, MD, president of the Medical Staff, said that, during Dr. Chaffee's tenure, she was instrumental in introducing new evidence-based practices in the treatment of withdrawal. 

In addition, her work led her to focus on the treatment of HIV/AIDS and hepatitis, because those diseases disproportionately affect persons who suffer from addiction.

"Like Dr. Palmer before her, she worked tirelessly to maintain cutting-edge assessment and treatment for persons suffering from alcoholism and other drug dependencies," Dr. Wolff said.

In Spring 2010, the Barbara H. Chaffee, MD, MPH, Educational Fund was established in Greater Binghamton to support continuing education for area healthcare professionals who wish to further their knowledge and expertise in the field of HIV/AIDS care.

Organizers of the fund stated at the time that Dr. Chaffee "was one of the first physicians to be moved by those suffering from AIDS, and has been actively involved in their care since 1988."

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