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The HWS Update

Bitcoin Boosts Science

HWS receives its first cryptocurrency gift from Vietnam medic and cardiologist Dr. J. Robert McGhee ’70.

The inaugural Bitcoin donation was made by Dr. J. Robert McGhee ’70 in honor of Professor Emeritus of Biology Richard Ryan in support of the Colleges’ strategic goals around advancing scientific education.

McGhee says he began reading about Bitcoin in 2017 and bought soon after. “I learned how to get involved with exchanges, protect assets with hardware wallets and gradually developed a portfolio,” he explains. “Endowment funds of Harvard, Yale, MIT, Michigan and others were accepting digital assets, so I thought, why not Hobart?”

A retired cardiologist, McGhee hopes his gift will provide lasting support to the Colleges, specifically to help students interested in the healthcare fields, as well as “children of our first responders and military” to attend HWS.

“We are grateful to Dr. McGhee for his generous gift in support of the things that mean so much to him,  and for paving the way for donors interested in using cryptocurrency in their philanthropic engagement with HWS,” says Vice President for Advancement Bob O’Connor P’22, P’23.

After graduating with his B.A. in classical languages, McGhee received a low draft number during the Vietnam War and “elected to sign a three-year contract to become a medic and operating room technician.”

With hands-on surgery experience at the 67th Evacuation Hospital in Qui Nhon and Pleiku, he went on to develop his scientific education with biology and inorganic chemistry courses through the Armed Forces Institute (headquartered at the University of Wisconsin), and later organic chemistry at George Washington University while stationed at Ft. Belvoir’s DeWitt Army Hospital.

After the Army, McGhee attended the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM), where he ranked near the top of his class. However, a problem arose that nearly derailed his pursuit of a medical degree.

“The State of Pennsylvania had a pre-science requirement; a student had to have a certificate that proved he or she had a year of biology, chemistry, physics and math, and I was told I would be let go if I did not find a way to satisfy that requirement,” explains McGhee.

Enter Professor Ryan, who received word of McGhee’s plight from Rev. Durstan MacDonald, then the Colleges’ chaplain.

“Dr. Ryan told me to come up [to Geneva] and bring my biology work,” McGhee recalls. “He looked at what I had done and wrote a letter of approval. The text was the same, and I had actually done more than would have been required at Hobart. Without Dr. Ryan’s aid, my medical career might have ended at that point.”

After graduating from PCOM, McGhee conducted an internship and internal medicine residency at the Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine, where he eventually “came under the sway of the cardiology department.” He went on to a fellowship in Brown University’s Integrated Program in Medicine.

“I had started doing research in my residency and continued as a fellow and ever since,” says McGhee, who was involved in some of “the earliest treatments of heart attacks using thrombolytic therapy, lipid disorders, heart failure and rhythm disorders.”

He later became the first full-time cardiologist at South County Hospital, the first non-teaching hospital in Rhode Island to use advanced cardiac imaging and clot-busting therapy with TPA (clot-buster drug) outside of a research setting. He also taught and served as the first chair of the Department of Medicine at New England College of Osteopathic Medicine.

In 1994, while serving as president of the medical staff at South County, McGhee and his wife Barbara moved to Ocala, Fla., where he operated his own cardiology practice and continued his research before retiring in 2016.

Reflecting on his career, McGhee says his “life and education at HWS taught me to be disciplined, constantly evaluate, reevaluate and plan for the future.”

Dr. J. Robert McGhee ’70 and Barbara McGhee are pictured above.

For more information on making a cryptocurrency gift, contact Wendy Barnhart, associate director of advancement services, at (315) 781-3725 or barnhart@hws.edu.