In Memoriam: Wesley Eugene Compere Jr., MD; Dec. 19, 1925--Dec. 15, 2009

May 4, 2010
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Contributed by Hamilton S. Dixon, MD; Rome, Georgia


A great man has died, one who contributed greatly to our specialty. When I first met Dr. Compere at a party to welcome the new residents in 1960, he looked at my wife and said, “I’m Dr. Compere. When can I do your nose?” My wife was pregnant at the time, and he and Jim Crabtree did Jane’s nose 6 weeks after the baby was born.


He used the Goldman technique, resulting in a beautiful nose. Dr. Goldman retired to the Breakers in Palm Beach, and whenever we were there for the Triological meeting, Dr. Compere would take Jane over to his table and show off her great result.


He was born in Shreveport, Louisiana, but grew up in Los Angeles, graduating from Los Angeles High School in 1942. He was an active reservist in the US Navy in the premed program, and got his BA and 1947 and his MD in 1950 from the University of Southern California. He was on the swim team and was captain of the water polo team at USC. He served on active duty in the Navy from 1951 to 1953 in Japan. He did his residency in Otolaryngology at USC, LA County Hospital, and received his Boards in 1954.


His pioneering work in radiology of the temporal bone led to many invitations, including the First International Congress of Radiology in Bordeaux, France, the IX International Congress in Mexico City, and the Royal Society of Medicine in London.


He became Associate Professor of Surgery in Otolaryngology at USC. He read all the x-rays of the temporal bone at the House Group in the late 1950s, and he became chief of the USC residency program at LA County Hospital in 1960. He returned to his home in La Mesa, California, in 1961, where he remained in practice.


He was a consultant in Otolaryngology at the US Naval Hospital in San Diego, a consultant in Radiology at Orange County Hospital, and Clinical Professor of ENT at UCSD School of Medicine.


Gene was chief in my first year of residency at LA County Hospital USC Service in 1960 and held an x-ray conference weekly, teaching us the fine points of anatomy and interpretation of temporal bone x-rays.


Dr. Compere was elected to the Triological Society in 1962, winning the coveted Mosher Award with his thesis on “The Radiologic Evaluation of the Petrous Portion of the Temporal Bone” He was also elected to the Otological Society.


Gene Compere has indeed been my mentor my entire professional life. The study habits and investigational methods he taught me have been invaluable in my own practice. I often called Gene for advice on research that I was doing, and his answers were always inspired and of great value.


He was a great help and inspiration in my Triological thesis. Gene Compere was a very tough chief. Our Journal Club every week was fraught with fear because you were required to read all articles of the assigned journal, and be able to discuss any of the articles intelligently or you would be in serious trouble.


Gene developed brittle diabetes when he was 50 and told his wife Jane that he thought he would likely only live another 10 years. He was fastidious and committed to controlling his sugar to perfection, long before the days of insulin pumps and other high-tech methods of control.


Some of my favorite expressions I learned from Gene. One was “That was a blow for freedom!” which was often exclaimed during surgery. He frequently commented when someone goofed up, “That’s okay. Everyone makes mistakes, you bungling idiot!”


Dr. Compere was a perfectionist, and a fine surgeon. He and his wife Jane were married for 62 years, and they had 4 children: Bob, Cathie, Bill, and Francie.


Gene published 24 articles, each a landmark work. Despite his remarkable work output, he spent every evening with his family. Gene Compere leaves a legacy of excellence, inspired teaching, and an example that few have attained in their contribution to their fellow man. His legacy of trust in God outshines even his other many talents and interests.