Dr. Marilyn King-Rankine, cardiologist whose medical skills were matched by calming compassion

04/26/2014 7:07 PM

04/26/2014 7:08 PM

For nearly 30 years, Dr. Marilyn King-Rankine helped patients with cutting-edge cardiology and an endearing bedside manner, but she also had a knack for coaching and refereeing.

Her daughter said Friday that Dr. King-Rankine, 69, who died April 11 of uterine cancer, will be remembered for her soft-spoken wisdom, which was often sought to help resolve disputes or personal issues.

“People were always coming to her with their problems,” Ifeyinwa “Fey” Ugokwe said. “She would mediate disputes with colleagues, yes, but you could come to her and she would help you with things that had nothing to do with medicine.

“She would go out of her way, no matter how busy she was. And she always was extremely busy.”

Dr. King-Rankine, a native of British Guiana (now called Guyana) came to the U.S. in the early 1960s to study medicine.

Science, Ugokwe said, was a lifelong passion that unfolded beneath her mother’s childhood home, which was built on stilts.

“She was very curious at an earlier age about how biology worked,” Ugokwe said. “She would run around the countryside dissecting frogs. Her parents couldn’t stop her, so they built a place under the house where she could conduct her experiments. And they got her a chemistry set.”

Dr. King-Rankine studied zoology and microbiology at Howard University in Washington, D.C., and earned her medical degree from Temple University in Philadelphia.

She completed her residency in internal medicine and a fellowship in cardiology at the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland. She focused on electrophysiology, the study of electrical properties in cells and tissues, and specialized in pacemakers, Ugokwe said.

Dr. King-Rankine came to Fort Worth in 1985 to open a private practice.

The family was told that she would be the first black cardiologist in Fort Worth, Ugokwe said. Another African-American cardiologist followed but moved later, she said.

“It wasn’t her first idea to start a private practice, but it seemed to be what God was calling her to do,” Ugokwe said.

Dr. King-Rankine’s practice was at Plaza Medical Center, her daughter said, but she treated patients at many area hospitals.

She was known for pursuing state-of-the-art procedures and techniques. Ugokwe noted that in 2011, her mother used laser technology to extract a part on a pacemaker — a technique new to Fort Worth.

But patients might remember most her calming, compassionate bedside manner.

Ugokwe recalled a story about how her mother referred a patient to another specialist but took great care to ease the person’s anxiety.

“She told the patient, ‘I’m not going to be your physician on this procedure, but I am going to be your nurse,’ ” Ugokwe said. “She was just very humble.”

On another case, her mother was called to perform cardiac care on a nurse who had a deadly infection that was causing her organs to fail.

Other doctors said the prognosis was grim, but Dr. King-Rankine did not agree.

“My mum examined her and said, ‘No, she’s going to make it. It’s going to be a rough road and a long one. But it will be like a crook in the road. After you pass through it, it becomes straight again.’ ”

Time passed, and one day while Dr. King-Rankine was seeing patients at Baylor All Saints Medical Center, a woman approached. The doctor did not recognize her until she introduced herself as the nurse she helped save.

“My mother lit up like a Christmas tree and gave her a big hug,” Ugokwe said. “She said they were rocking back and forth in that hug for a long time.”

The cardiologist and nurse met again at Baylor All Saints when Dr. King-Rankine was hospitalized with cancer.

“The nurse told my mother, ‘Dr. King-Rankine, you took such good care of me. Now it’s time for me to take care of you.’ That’s how the Lord works,” Ugokwe said.

A funeral for Dr. King-Rankine was held Saturday at All Saints Episcopal Church in west Fort Worth.

Survivors include another daughter, Patrice Rankine; three sisters; a brother; and numerous nieces and nephews.

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