Cardiologist Kirk T. Spencer, MD, 1962-2018

Kirk SpencerPhysician-scientist Kirk Spencer, MD, a professor of medicine at the University of Chicago and an authority on echocardiography, a diagnostic tool used to acquire moving images of the beating heart, died September 4, 2018. He was 56 years old. 

“Dr. Spencer was recognized for his outstanding work as a clinician, investigator, mentor and leader,” said Kenneth S. Polonsky, executive vice president for medical affairs at the University of Chicago “He was well known in his field, having published more than 100 scientific articles and lecturing on his clinical and research projects around the world. He has had a broad impact and will be sorely missed.”

Kirk Thomas Spencer was born Feb. 8, 1962. He received his bachelor’s degree in physics (with highest distinction) from the University of Michigan in 1984.

In 1985, he entered the Pritzker School of Medicine. He graduated with honors in 1989, followed by a residency in internal medicine at Johns Hopkins. In 1992, he began a fellowship in cardiology at the University of Iowa, and was selected as chief fellow in 1994.

Spencer returned to the University of Chicago as an assistant professor of medicine in 1995 and remained on the faculty for 23 years. He was promoted to associate professor in 2002 and professor in 2011.

He held many important roles at the University of Chicago, including associate director of the cardiac imaging laboratories from 1995 to 2018, director of the echocardiography laboratories on the main Hyde Park campus and at Orland Park since 2016, as well as the physician administrator of the inpatient cardiology service since 2013.

He taught clinical pathophysiology to medical students, general cardiology to residents, and echocardiography to fellows. He served on 24 academic committees and earned 20 honors and awards for teaching and research. He also published more than 120 articles in academic and clinical journals as well as 14 book chapters.

“We knew and liked him from his medical school days, so we recruited him back,” said fellow cardiologist Roberto Lang, MD, professor of medicine and director of UChicago Medicine’s Noninvasive Cardiac Imaging Laboratory. Spencer soon became associate director for the echocardiography laboratory as well as the administrator of the inpatient cardiology service.

“He also became our digital wizard, organizing the vast and growing collection of echocardiograms and other patient studies,” Lang said. “He was an extra-hard working guy, well known, respected in the field, reliable, just a phenomenal co-worker and a good friend.”

Spencer was also committed to public service. He participated in multiple humanitarian projects, traveling with colleagues worldwide, primarily to African countries as well as the Dominican Republic.

“This week we lost a great cardiologist, cardiac imager, educator, researcher, and friend,” Amit Patel, MD, posted on Twitter. “Dr. Kirk T. Spencer positively touched numerous patient and physician lives through the course of his incredible career.”

Spencer is survived by his wife, Jacque, and their four children, three adopted children and two grandchildren.

A memorial service has been scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 8, at Kurtz Memorial Chapel, 65 Old Frankfort Way, Frankfort, IL 60423. Visitation will be from 9:30 a.m. to noon, followed immediately by a memorial service.