Written by: Gayle Ronan Sins for the
Philadelphia Inquirer on July 16, 2003
Dr. William H. Shull
Jr., rehab specialist
As a brilliant young doctor, Dr. Bill Shull specialized in helping
the brain-injured work their way back to health, doing so in the
rehab section of the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.
And that is where he became a patient himself this year, after
cancer triggered a stroke that left him paralyzed on his left
side. From his wheelchair, he kept on helping those around him.
"I think this was part of God's plan for me," Dr. Shull told a
colleague, a HUP nurse. "I care for patients with disabilities,
and now I know what it is like to not be able to move."
On Friday, Dr. William Henry Shull Jr., 42, lost his own struggle.
He died of malignant melanoma, the outcome of skin cancer
diagnosed seven years ago.
Dr. Shull was an assistant professor of rehabilitation medicine at
HUP, where he was director of neurotrauma rehabilitation.
Born and raised in Charlotte, N.C., Dr. Shull moved to
Philadelphia in 1987 to serve residencies and fellowships in
rehabilitative medicine, surgery and cardiopulmonary
rehabilitation. He arrived with a medical degree from Duke
His colleagues said that patients were drawn to Dr. Shull's warm
manner and Southern drawl. He seemed to greet everyone with a big
grin and a hug.
A sister, Betty Shull Butler, said her brother essentially made
HUP his home, spending far more time there than at his Center City
apartment, a place with "maybe three sticks of furniture."
"I'm sure he is there now, whispering in people's ears," she said.
"He was known as the 'Son of HUP.' "
Katie FitzPatrick, HUP's trauma clinical administrator and a nurse
who worked with Dr. Shull for eight years, said that he prided
himself on his fitness and frequented tanning salons before he
"Looking his best was very important to him," she said. "He took
very good care of himself."
After noticing a skin lesion on his back, FitzPatrick said, Dr.
Shull tackled the cancer hard, including with surgery,
chemotherapy and radiation.
Still, the cancer advanced. As death neared, Dr. Shull returned to
his parents' home in Charlotte. There, he was visited by an old
friend, Ida Eckhardt, an oncologist.
"Bill was in the last stage of his illness and was nonresponsive
most of the time. When Ida walked into the room, his eyes lit up,"
his sister recalled. "She took his hand and said, 'Dr. Shull, what
are you going to teach me today?' "
In addition to his sister, Dr. Shull is survived by his parents,
Dr. William and Barbara Shull; sisters Cathy Shull and Shelley
Shull Monroe; and his grandmother, Catherine Neal.
A private burial was held Monday in Charlotte. The date for a
memorial service in Philadelphia has not been determined.
Memorial donations may be sent to the William "Bill" Shull Jr.
M.D. Lectureship, in care of the University of Pennsylvania Health
System, Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, 5 West Gates, 3400
Spruce St., Philadelphia 19104