Lahey Loses Iconic Physician

Dr Carl Bartels


Dr. Carl Bartels’ career at Lahey Clinic began in 1949 with a simple handshake.

That handshake was with Lahey Clinic founder Frank Lahey, MD, and it would make him the 32nd member of the clinic’s medical staff, earning $4,000 annually. Nearly 40 years later, Dr. Bartels retired leaving a legacy of expert, compassionate care and dedicated service to his patients.

Dr. Bartels – the last living physician hired by Dr. Lahey himself — died Saturday at the age of 98.

“Medicine was Carl's passion and his calling. He attended Grand Rounds throughout his 80s, and well into his 90s he clipped out and handed me NEJM and JAMA articles of interest,” said Bartels’ daughter-in-law Audrey Hartman, MD, a radiologist at Lahey and the third of four generations of his extended family to work at Lahey. His grandson-in-law, Haddon Pantel, MD, is a surgical resident here. “He was an inspiration.”

Dr. Bartels was an experienced physician prior to joining Lahey, having served as a doctor in the U.S. Navy during World War II. At Lahey, he was a specialist in hypertension and vascular disease. Bartels served as chair of the Department of Vascular Medicine for much of his tenure, and enjoyed how the clinic model allowed him to collaborate with colleagues across many medical fields under one roof. His colleagues considered him an expert diagnostician and often sent him their toughest cases. Over his career, he treated famous dignitaries and world leaders. Grateful patients of his donated a plaque in his name that still hangs in the MICU waiting room today.

After 39 years, Dr. Bartels retired in 1988. He remained very involved with Lahey, but also decided to start clowning around — literally. He and his wife Carm took a clown-training course in Florida. After graduating, they performed at nursing homes and retirement centers.

Dr. Bartels was a dedicated physician who cared deeply for his patients, often going above and beyond. His son Phil recounted a story of being sent by his father as a young teen to pick up a prescription at the Lahey pharmacy for an indigent patient with limited mobility. Bartels’ son was not sure how to pay, but the pharmacist assured him no payment was needed; this was one of Dr. Bartels’ special patients and the pharmacist would put it on Dr. Bartels’ tab.

“That’s just the kind of man he was. He was as amazing and generous a family man as he was a physician,” said his son, Phil. “He is going to be greatly missed by many, many people.”