Morley Singer, MD, First Director of Moffitt ICU, Has Passed Away

Morley Singer in the ICU in the 60s and speaking at the UCSF Anesthesia 50th anniversary gala in 2008

It is with profound sadness that we announce that Morley Singer, MD, the first Director of the Moffitt Hospital ICU, has passed away.  

Morley Singer in the lab during his fellowship Dr. Singer graduated from the University of Manitoba Faculty of Medicine in 1959, then completed his anesthesiology residency at UCSF from 1961-1964. From 1962 through 1963, he also undertook a research fellowship under the mentorship of John Severinghaus, at the UCSF Cardiovascular Research Institute (CVRI), and was appointed chief resident for the 1963-1964 academic year. 

Burt Richardson and Morley Singer at White Mountain Research Facility

After Dr. Singer’s graduation in 1964, he was appointed to the anesthesia faculty and director of the Moffitt ICU, an area of the hospital he helped design with architect Derek Parker.  At a time when most academic anesthesiology departments were abandoning newly established ICUs due to lack of professional fees, our department had the foresight to maintain control of these units at UCSF. Dr. Singer remained director of the Moffitt ICU until 1972. 

Morley Singer and a nurse in Moffitt ICU and Morley Singer at chalkboard teaching

Morley Singer at department faculty meetingMarilyn Harper and Morley Singer at grand roundsDr. Singer was not only an exceptional physician but an exuberant free spirit. Long after his retirement he could be seen riding his bike around the Parnassus neighborhood and Marin, and remained an avid sailor, always ready to extend a sailing invitation to his department friends and colleagues. We share a story below about an adventurous ocean crossing he took in the 1960s, with fellow UCSF Anesthesia residency graduate Burt Richardson, in Dr. Singer’s own words.

Morley and Betty Singer with their car  

A small anecdote: Burt was a year or so ahead of me in our Residency. He went into private practice at Marin General and enjoyed a successful career there. We were friends and he called me around 1965 and invited me to sail with him a 40 ft boat back to San Francisco from Hawaii. I had always dreamed of doing an ocean passage and proceeded to make arrangements, which included anesthesia staff coverage for the new ICU. Bill Hamilton was then chairman of the department and said he didn’t want me to go and could not give permission. (It was to be in mid-July, but I was in the ICU, not the OR. Phil Larson on faculty agreed to cover the ICU, and I had an ICU anesthesia fellow and the ICU nurses were okay with it.) After numerous discussions with Hamilton, it became obvious that I was intending to sail no matter what. With what I imagined was the wisdom of Solomon I told Hamilton I would take the public position that I went against his wishes and without his endorsement as this would allow him to deny July time off for other faculty in July of next year. I don’t think my attitude endeared me to Bill Hamilton. We had an adventurous 16-day ocean crossing, with celestial navigation, and hit the Farralones right on. An unforgettable experience. I tell that story often to friends and the moral of the story is…well…YOU decide!

Please join us in remembering Dr. Singer and celebrating his life. Feel free to reach out to [email protected] with any remembrances you’d like to share of Dr. Singer. 

Photos of Drs. Singer and Richardson at White Mountain courtesy Dr. James W. Terman. Photos of Dr. Singer speaking at the UCSF Anesthesia and Perioperative Care 50th Anniversary Gala courtesy Christine Jegan. All other photos courtesy Richard Schlobohm, MD.