Santa Clara Magazine is published in print for alumni and friends of the University. It is updated weekly on the web.
James “Jim” Hartwell Flippen Jr. ’41 was reputed for his innovative contributions to pediatric medicine as well as his incisive logic, wit, and wisdom, dapper bow ties, ever-alm demeanor, and active community involvement. He exemplified a life well planned and a life well lived. Born in Manhattan in 1920, Jim was the elder son of New York internist James H. Flippen Sr. M.D. Being from three generations of physicians, he knew he wanted to be a physician from an early age. He was a graduate of Santa Clara University and was at the top of his class in pre-d. Jim was the first Santa Clara graduate to be accepted into the top three medical schools: Stanford, Harvard, and Johns Hopkins. He is a graduate of the Stanford Medical School, class of 1945. While in medical school, Jim was a cadet in the Navy Reserve. Following medical school, he joined the Navy and was a WWII and Korean War veteran, deployed as the ship’s senior medical officer from San Francisco to Japan and Korea. In 1946, Jim married Beverly Walsh. They met when Beverly was a student at UC Berkeley and Jim was a Navy medical officer stationed in San Francisco/Tanforan. They immediately moved to Boston, where Jim held a fellowship in pediatric pathology at Harvard University. Upon their return to California, he served as chief resident at Stanford University. For 40 years, Jim was a pediatrician in private practice and clinical professor of pediatric cardiology at the Stanford Medical School. His experience dissecting the hearts of babies having died of congenital heart disease led to assisting surgeons in the field of open-heart surgery and teaching pediatric cardiology for 35 years. Jim formed a physician’s consortium and initiated construction of the Medical Plaza by Stanford Hospital. It was a novel concept of a single-floor medical office complex, occupied and owned by 40 independent physicians of all specialties. This proved to be a very lucrative investment for all concerned. Early in his esteemed career, Jim performed then state-of-the-art lifesaving total blood replacement transfusion through the umbilical vein of infants with acute hemolytic anemia due to blood type incompatibility with the mother. He performed hundreds of these and taught the procedure to pediatricians on the West Coast. In addition, he authored papers defining the genetic basis of two types of bone deformities as well as the physiologic basis of drowning while swimming after following hyperventilation, which he termed “silent drowning.” Through his medical contributions and leadership, Jim directly and indirectly saved innumerable lives and reduced injuries. During the 1960s and 1970s, he was appointed chairman of the California State Accident Prevention Committee of the Academy of Pediatrics, and he enlisted other pediatricians around the state to seek legislation requiring seat belts and infant car seats. Seat belts, smoke detectors, and harsh penalties for teenagers driving under the influence are now part of our everyday lives. Jim played a pivotal role in leading the way to these legislative mandates in California over 50 years ago, resulting in the saving of countless lives over the decades. When Jim retired, he and Beverly moved to White Oaks in Carmel Valley Village, where they lived for 20 years. The Flippens shared many travels and adventures to several continents and numerous countries. This included an African safari and a nearly yearlong stay in Europe, where they had a touring car and drove over 3,000 miles. The couple next resided at The Forum for a decade, where they continued to participate in activities and diverse cultural interests in the Bay Area—theater, ballet, concerts, and art exhibits. Jim also organized the first bocce ball competition at The Forum. Among his many talents, Jim designed three distinct homes, one of which reflected a Japanese design and garden. This home was featured in Sunset magazine. He was also a champion tennis player, who for decades competed in the American Medical Tennis Association and the World Medical Tennis Society doctors’ consortium (he played into his 90s). With his artistic abilities, Jim showcased his many original multimedia paintings at The Forum art shows. The subject matter included wife Beverly, still life, wildlife, landscapes and seascapes, and portraits and personalities. Over the years, Jim was an active member of his community and provided leadership and support to various organizations as chairman of the San Mateo County Heart Association, the pediatric sections of Sequoia and Stanford Hospitals, and the Professional Advisory Committee to the Peninsula Children’s Center (PEC) for severely emotionally disturbed children. He served as board president of the Chartwell School for Dyslexic Children in Monterey and the Monterey Bay Scottish Society, president of the Ladera Oaks Swim and Tennis Club, chairman of the Citizens Advisory Committee to the Transportation Agency of Monterey County, and the Roads Committee of the Carmel Valley Residents Association. Jim died peacefully at the exact time of the grand eclipse on Aug. 21 at The Forum at Rancho San Antonio in Los Altos. He was 97 years old. He was the devoted and loving father of son James Flippen III (Patty) ’70, daughter Kathleen Carmel ’69, grandchildren Travis Flippen and Jason Bradford (Kristin), and great-grandchildren Curtis and Davis Bradford. His extended family includes Alexis Flippen von Zimmer (David), Thomas Flippen II (Laurie), Jacqueline Sahud, Russel Flippen, Sandra Limon, Timothy Thomas Flippen, and former son-in-law Christopher Bradford. Jim was predeceased by his loving wife, Beverly, son Daniel Flippen, and brother Thomas A. Flippen. He also leaves behind his adopted miniature poodle, Jasper Vanderbilt Flippen. A transcript and video of Jim’s 2016 interview with the Stanford Historical Society’s Oral History Program can be found under his name or by the medical school faculty at https://purl.stanford.edu/yb644pt2832.