Bill Cook passed away at the age of 80 on 15 April 2011, after courageously fighting congestive heart failure for several years. With his passing the interventional community lost a great friend whose vision of interventional treatment contributed to the rapid growth and development of our field. Frederick S Keller, Dotter Institute, Oregon, USA, writes this tribute for Interventional News
In 1957, Bill’s cousin, a radiologist, told him that a new technique called angiography may be a good area to investigate for developing new medical tools. With US$1,500 of borrowed capital Bill and his wife, Gayle, started their new company, Cook Inc. Working closely with and recognising the needs of early angiographers, the company became the first to manufacture the three products that were necessary to practice the Seldinger technique of percutaneous arterial access—a needle, a guidewire and a catheter. At the RSNA in 1963, Bill met Charles Dotter. It was the beginning of a long and close friendship. This friendship resulted in a collaboration that produced many new interventional devices and ideas.
During the early years of angiography and interventional radiology, Bill Cook played a pivotal role in the development of the specialty. He was the first individual to establish close working relationships with pioneering interventionalists. His close cooperation with Charles Dotter in the development of percutaneous transluminal angioplasty is now history and has fundamentally changed the way medicine is practiced. Many other pioneers including Anders Lunderquist, Cesare Gianturco, Kurt Amplatz, Josef Rösch, Stan Cope, Sid Wallace and Rolf Gunther all benefitted from Bill’s close collaboration and support. He facilitated rapid progress in the development of new interventional tools and devices and introduction of new techniques including endourology and gastrointestinal and gynecologic interventions. Bill Cook would place his company’s resources behind any reasonable, new project that angiographers and interventional radiologists could conceive. While these efforts usually culminated in success, at that time it was a huge risk for him to be so aggressively accommodating and supportive.
Over the years his company has flourished and become a conglomerate, the Cook Group, with manufacturing facilities in the USA, Australia, Denmark and Ireland and a sales organisation that spans the globe. Despite tremendous growth and success in his business, Bill always stayed involved with interventional radiology. He was the first non-physician to receive the Gold Medal from the Society of Interventional Radiology and together with his friend, John Abele, the first non-physician to receive Gold Medal from CIRSE.
In addition to success in the medical field, Bill received numerous awards for his contributions to historic preservation. He and Gayle had a love for the character, history and beauty of historic building and have seen the positive impact historic preservation projects can have on a community and its population. In addition to many other projects, they restored the Courthouse Square in Bloomington, Indiana and historic hotels in French Lick and West Baden, Indiana. Both these communities were once struggling with poverty and unemployment and now, thanks to Bill and Gayle Cook’s efforts, are thriving. Bill was the sponsor of the Star of Indiana Drum and Bugle Corps, a travelling and performing group of young people that won a national championship. He also produced the Tony and Emmy award winning Broadway show “Blast” whose roots came from the drum and bugle corps.
Bill’s fierce independence and rejection of the corporate world allowed him to disregard a “bottom line” mentality and develop a company that was both compassionate and caring. He gave back millions to his community and to charitable organisations. To aid in the advancement of medical education and research, Cook companies provided significant financial support to universities, hospitals and physicians in the United States and throughout the world and have funded many endowed chairs.
Throughout his 48 years in business, Bill Cook has consistently been a loyal friend and supporter of interventional radiology. Through his generosity over many years Bill has truly exemplified the ideal partner and benefactor to our profession. His history of “giving back” has established a precedent for others in industry to emulate.
Interventional radiology has lost a great friend and the world has lost a great man. Bill’s persona was bigger than life. Those who had the good fortune to have known Bill or have him as a friend were truly blessed.