Dr. Leslie Cooper Buchanan, 91, played key role in opening hospital

Dr. Robert Gibbs of Decatur, a retired internist and his close friend of 65 years, said Dr. Buchanan played an important part in the 1961 opening of DeKalb General Hospital, now known as DeKalb Medical Center.

“Buck was chief of medical staff at the time, and in the months before the building was finished, it was his job to help formulate personnel policies and help select the staff,” Dr. Gibbs said. “He also performed the first surgery in the new hospital.”

Dr. Gibbs said his friend was an excellent diagnostician and surgeon, and beyond that he was a caring doctor as well. “Buck had great sympathy for the men and women he treated. They were more than patients to him. He was interested in them and their lives.”

Dr. John S. Kennedy of Stone Mountain, who took over Dr. Buchanan’s 34-year surgical practice when the latter retired in 1987, said he quickly found his predecessor had two loyal groups of fans.

“His patients loved Dr. Buchanan, and referring doctors held him in high regard,” he said.

He also discovered Dr. Buchanan possessed a phenomenal memory.

Dr. Buchanan was able to give Dr. Kennedy a rundown off the top of his head on all his patients and the intricacies of their conditions.

“He seemed to remember everything he ever learned about anatomy. He had a mind like a magnet,” Dr. Kennedy said.

Dr. Leslie Cooper Buchanan, 91, of Atlanta died Wednesday of respiratory failure at Budd Terrace, Emory Healthcare. His funeral was Saturday at the chapel of A.S. Turner & Sons, with interment at Decatur Cemetery.

Retirement hardly meant inactivity for Dr. Buchanan. For two and a half years (1988-90) he was medical director of the Georgia State Division of Rehabilitation. Then, through most of the 1990s, he was assistant clinical professor of surgery for Emory University’s School of Medicine at Grady Hospital.

“Dad enjoyed teaching and mentoring the residents there, instructing them in the tricks of the surgical trade that they wouldn’t learn from textbooks,” said his daughter, Lynn Gunter of Fayetteville.

Dr. Buchanan was a co-founder of both the Georgia Hospice Association and the Hospice of the Good Shepherd, a group of medical volunteers who treated terminally ill men and women who wished to spend their last days in their own homes.

A longtime friend, Houston Smith of Decatur, called Dr. Buchanan a pillar of the Decatur Rotary Club. “Buck could have been its president were it not for his medical responsibilities,” he said. “Still, he chaired various club committees and was renowned for the way he ran his meetings with his self-effacing humor.”

Dr. Buchanan was a member of North Decatur Methodist Church for more than 50 years and occupied a number of leadership positions there, including trustee, lay speaker and Sunday school teacher.

“Passing on his faith was important to Dad,” Ms. Gunter said. “He often conducted family devotions, reading to us children from the Bible and leading a discussion of the passage’s meaning.”

She said her father had a personal mantra that he repeated to his children frequently: “Each day you should see something beautiful, learn something new and do something kind for someone else.”

Also surviving are his wife of 66 years, Mary Turner Buchanan; two other daughters, Leslie New of Denver and Mary Gooding of Valdosta; a son, Bill Buchanan of Duluth; and five grandchildren.

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