Laura Cheney Professorship in Anesthesia Patient Safety
The Laura Cheney Professorship in Anesthesia Patient Safety was created by Pi and Frederick W. “Fred” Cheney, Jr., M.D., in 2007. The endowment is a tribute to the life and work of Laura Cheney, a nursing supervisor at the New England Deaconess Hospital (NEDH) in Boston, Mass., who inspired her son, Fred Cheney, Jr., to pursue a career in medicine.
Laura Lynch was a student nurse at the New England Deaconess Hospital when she married Frederick W. Cheney, Sr. on July 3, 1933. Mr. Cheney was head baker at the same institution. Upon graduation in October 1933, Laura did private duty and floor nursing at NEDH. The Cheneys’ only child, Fred Jr., was born Jan. 17, 1935 at the Ayer Memorial Hospital in Ayer, Mass.
In 1940, the family moved to Brookline, Mass., and Fred Jr. graduated from Brookline High School in 1952. Mrs. Cheney had been working as a private-duty nurse, but when Fred Jr. went to college at John Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md. in 1952, Mrs. Cheney took a full-time position as a night supervisor at the NEDH in order to help pay for his education.
At the end of Fred Jr.’s first year of college, Mrs. Cheney interested him in becoming a hospital orderly at the NEDH. That summer, as Fred Jr. worked on the neurological ward, he became impressed with the hospital’s anesthesiologists. Whenever a patient became critically ill, an anesthesiologist would be summoned; appearing in operating-room attire, the anesthesiologist would then efficiently perform the appropriate resuscitation procedures.
Mrs. Cheney encouraged and nurtured Fred Jr.’s interest in anesthesiology and introduced him to many of the staff anesthesiologists at the hospital. Fred Jr. subsequently transferred to Tufts College in Medford, Mass., so that he could save money for medical school. He continued to work as an orderly at the NEDH during college.
Laura Cheney was a highly respected nursing supervisor who had high expectations of nursing and medical staff — and of family members. On more than one occasion, Fred Jr. was told that his performance was not up to his mother’s expectations. Mrs. Cheney also had no reservations about letting senior physicians know when she felt that they weren’t paying enough attention to their patients. Mrs. Cheney’s administrative style was hands-on and directive — Fred Jr. learned a lot from his mother, not only about medicine, but also about personnel management.
Fred Jr. went on to become an anesthesiologist, and, at the conclusion of his training in that specialty in 1964, he joined the Department of Anesthesiology at UW Medicine as an instructor. Thirty years later, Fred Jr. became chair of the department.
Mrs. Cheney retired from her position as nursing supervisor at the NEDH in 1973. Mr. Cheney retired from his position as head baker at the same time. They moved from their apartment in Brookline, Mass., where they had lived since 1940, to Vero Beach, Fla., where they lived until 1988. Due to Mrs. Cheney’s failing health, the elder Cheneys moved to Seattle to be near Fred Jr., his wife, Pi, and their two children, Pam and Brenda.
Mr. Cheney died in January 1995 at the age of 86, and Mrs. Cheney died in December 2003 at the age of 91. She was giving orders and making people laugh until the end.
If you are interested in supporting this work, please make a gift.