World-renowned heart disease expert, Rory W. Childers, MD, 1931-2014

Rory Childers, MD

Rory Childers, MD

Rory Childers, MD, an internationally known authority on the movement of electrical impulses within the heart and the use and interpretation of electrocardiograms, died on Wednesday, August 27, at Southampton Hospital in New York. The 83-year-old Chicagoan and his wife were vacationing when he suffered a cardiac arrest.

A professor of medicine at the University of Chicago, Childers taught medical students, residents and fellows — and through his scholarly writings, physicians worldwide — how to gain the greatest possible information from an electrocardiogram, a two-dimensional graph showing the electrical currents moving through a beating heart. He published extensively on the interpretation of electrocardiograms. He helped computerize the diagnosis of disorders detected by this common test and was considered a pioneer in taking the diagnostic tool out of the hospital and into ambulances, allowing faster treatment for heart attack patients.

“Rory Childers helped set the standards and bring uniformity to computerized interpretation of ECGs” said Martin Burke, DO, a cardiac electrophysiologist at the University.

“An electrocardiogram is a very sensitive test,” Burke said. “It is routinely performed hundreds of times a day in every hospital around the world, but reading one is far from routine. The details matter. One little squiggle can alter a diagnosis. Rory was the expert on those details, especially the subtle ones that warn of an impending catastrophe.”

“In teaching cardiology and physical diagnosis, Rory had a magical combination of a thespian’s humor and scholarly precision that captivated multiple generations of students,” Burke said.

Childers, who read an estimated 50,000 ECGs a year, was known as the “ECG guy” to every medical student who attended the University of Chicago during the last 50 years. He was the son of the fourth president of Ireland, Erskine Hamilton Childers, and grandson of acclaimed Irish novelist Robert Erskine Childers.

To read more about his remarkable career as a cardiologist and authority on modern Irish history and culture, visit our Newsroom. Dr. Childers’ family is also posting recollections at

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