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Currents--University of Rochester newspaper

Pioneering doctor Robert Burton dies

Robert Burton '40, '43 (MD), a former clinical assistant professor of medicine who graduated first in his class in '43, died on April 19 at the age of 81 following a two-year struggle with colon cancer.

The much-decorated World War II veteran became medical director of the Sidney Hillman Health Center in Rochester in 1962, one of the first independent physicians' associations in the country. Burton helped to develop a health plan there that allowed doctors to use their own offices to see patients instead of a central clinic.

"In a sense, it was the prototype of all HMOs," said his son, Gregory Burton, of Ann Arbor, Mich. "Dad was a central player in this managed care evolution, or revolution."

During the '70s, Burton led a federal research effort that assessed the feasibility of using the Rochester plan as the template for HMO-style care nationwide. His research led to years of consultancy on the subject and evolved into Preferred Care, for which he served as its first medical director.

Over the course of his 40-year career at the School of Medicine and Dentistry, Burton became a nationally recognized expert in diseases of the adrenal cortex and was known for his world-class research into steroid hormones. To his patients, he was a compassionate, intelligent, attentive doctor.

The eminent physician was predeceased by his wife, Sheila Stillman Burton, who died in 1972; he never remarried. In addition to his son, Gregory, Burton is survived by his daughter, Melissa Burton, of Rochester; a brother, Ellison Burton, of Alexandria, Va.; a sister, Shirley Bloom, of Charlottesville, Va.; a sister-in-law and brother-in-law, Jacqueline and Chester Stricker, of Rochester; and several nieces and nephews.

Burton will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Contributions in his memory may be made to the Robert B. Burton M.D. Memorial Scholarship Fund and sent to the Medical Center, 300 E. River Rd., Box 278996.

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