John T. Purvis, MD

Class Year



Posted on: November 19, 2018

John Taylor Purvis, MD, FACS, age 89, passed away on October 16, 2018, at Fort Sanders Hospital. He was born on February 4, 1929, to Katherine Taylor and John Jones Mitchell, and he was later adopted by Robert A. Purvis, MD.

John Purvis graduated from Morristown High School, the University of Tennessee, and the University of Tennessee College of Medicine. He interned at Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal, Canada, and then was a resident in neurosurgery at the University of Virginia Hospital, Charlottesville, VA, where he was chief resident from June, 1960, to January, 1961. While he was in the US Air Force, he became a flight surgeon, and practiced neurosurgery at Wright Patterson AFB, where he was chief of neurosurgery from January, 1961 to April, 1965. He was transferred to Clark AFB, Philippines, where he also served as chief of neurosurgery. He was honorably discharged from the military in 1966 with the rank of Major.

Dr. Purvis is predeceased by his parents, Katherine Taylor Purvis and Robert A. Purvis, MD. He is survived by his wife of 47 years, Patricia Lane Purvis, and his children Katherine Sharp (Alfred), Elizabeth Grace (Gene), John T. Purvis, Jr. (Kim), Allyn Schwartz (John), David Purvis (Robin), and Robert Purvis (Peary), nine grandchildren and fourteen great-grandchildren. Also surviving is his sister, Janice Thomas (Pope), as well as many nieces and nephews.

In 1968, Dr. Purvis came home to East Tennessee and established his neurosurgery practice in Knoxville and set up a neurosurgery department at Fort Sanders Hospital. Over the years, he built a strong neurosurgery practice bringing in many younger doctors who were able to carry on his work when he retired in 1998. He was a staff member at Fort Sanders Presbyterian Hospital, Saint Mary’s Hospital, East Tennessee Baptist Hospital, East Tennessee Children’s Hospital, University of Tennessee Memorial Hospital, Oak Ridge Hospital, and Park West Hospital. During this time, he had the honor of holding many prestigious positions. During these tenures, he was able to mentor many interns and residents. From 1968 to 1988, he was a Clinical Associate Professor of Neurological Surgery at the University of Tennessee Memorial Hospital. In 1977, he was Chief of the Department of Surgery at Fort Sanders Hospital, Knoxville. He also served as President of the Knoxville Surgical Society and the Tennessee Neurological Society, and served as Chief of the Department of Orthopedics and Neurosurgery at Fort Sanders Presbyterian Hospital in 1982. From 1983 to 1984, he was Chairman of the Council of State Neurosurgical Societies, and has published and presented many scholarly papers on various aspects of the practice of neurosurgery.

As a member of the Board of Directors of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, from 1985 to 1991, he was chosen as a representative to the Organ Procurement Foundation and was the representative to the American Council of Transplantation in 1984. This led to what might be his most significant contribution to the medical field when he was appointed by the Secretary of Health and Human Services to the Federal Task Force on Organ Transplantation. The work of this task force led to the implementation of the organ donor lists matching recipients with donors that is in place today.

Another important accomplishment was the creation of Think First National Injury Prevention Foundation. The intent of Think First was prevention of brain and spinal cord injuries, as well as other injuries, an issue of great importance to him. He served as chairman of Think First from 1992 to 1994.

An avid reader and a lover of the arts, he was an active member of the University of Tennessee Theater Board, serving as chairperson, the UT President’s Club, the UT Heritage Society. For many years, he was an active member of Cherokee Country Club where he spent many hours of his retirement playing bridge. With a deep love for short haired English pointers, he was actively involved in breeding the dogs, and he especially liked going to field trials to see them run. Until recently when his health began to fail, he read all the time, preferring history and biography.

Memorials may be made to the Clarence Brown Theater Enrichment Fund at the University of Tennessee. Please click on Theater Enrichment Fund, and under “This is an honorary or memorial gift” add John Purvis, MD, as the honoree.