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Several pictures of doctors who are featured on the Local Legends web site

MEET LOCAL LEGEND: Carolyn E. Bekes, M.D.

Picture of Carolyn E. Bekes
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Carolyn E. Bekes, M.D.

“I like taking care of very sick people. You see what the problem is and you take immediate action. It's demanding work, and you're pulled in many directions, but there is a tremendous satisfaction in meeting the challenges that come at you.”


Jim Saxton



Today an internationally acclaimed practitioner and pioneer in critical care medicine, Carolyn Bekes knew early on she wanted to work with people as either a teacher or a physician.

"I was always a bit idealistic and loved science, but at first wasn't sure about medicine because the laboratory or research aspects didn't interest me," she said. "I wanted to work with people and was lucky because, when I started my medical training, critical care was a new specialty and I chose it because I like helping sick patients."

Her path into critical care has brought Bekes to the top of her field as Senior Vice President for Academic and Medical Affairs at Cooper Hospital, University Medical Center in New Jersey, where, over the last 20 years, she has developed critical care as a medical specialty and been a leader in establishing new programs and standards nationally.

I'm proudest of the work I've done to help improve critical care," she comments. "That and the opportunity to help train and educate critical-care students mean a lot to me."

Nominated as a Local Legend by Rep. Jim Saxton (R-NJ-3), she has served in multiple leadership positions within the International Society of Critical Care Medicine, culminating with her election as the first woman president of the organization in 2000.

Bekes began training in internal medicine at Cooper University Hospital, where she became chief medical resident in 1974. Then she did a nephrology fellowship at Cooper in 1975, followed by another such fellowship at Philadelphia's Hahnemann Medical College, in 1976.

For more than 32 years, she has served the critically ill of southern New Jersey from a wide variety of positions at Cooper Hospital, including being director of the intensive care unit (ICU) from 1977 to 1993, and director of the ICU physician training program, helping to prepare more than 40 physicians for careers in critical care medicine.

In 2003, Berkes received the Society of Critical Care Medicine's Distinguished Service Award for lifetime achievement. In 1989, she was one of the first physicians recognized as a Fellow by the American College of Critical Care Medicine. Between 1995 and 2001, she sat on the Critical Care Medicine Test and Policy Committee for the American Board of Internal Medicine, the official body responsible for creating the board examination for intensive care physicians.

A prolific writer, she has published over 30 articles and seven chapters in the medical literature, and is continuing medical education editor for Critical Care Medicine. Also an experienced speaker with virtually innumerable presentations to her credit, she has been a leading contributor of the Guidelines Committee of the Society of Critical Care Medicine.

Writing admiringly of their colleague, R. Phillip Dellinger, M.D. and Joseph E. Parrillo, M.D., proclaimed, "Dr. Bekes has been a pioneer in improving the quality of ICU care, not only in our community, but throughout the United States and the world. Her enduring contributions to the healthcare of the community and our country will be long lasting."



Appointed Director, Intensive Care Unit, Cooper Hospital/University Medical Center, Camden, NJ


Appointed Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine (1980); Professor of Medicine (1997), University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School (UMDNJ-RWJMS), Camden, NJ


Appointed Director, Critical Care Fellowship Program, Cooper Hospital/University Medical Center, Camden, NJ


Appointed Medical Director, Life Support Center, Cooper Hospital/University Medical Center, Camden, NJ


Appointed Senior Vice President for Academic and Medical Affairs/Chief Medical Officer, Cooper Hospital/University Medical Center, Camden, NJ


Received Society of Critical Care Medicine's Distinguished Service Award for Lifetime Achievements


Director Rapid Response Team, Cooper Hospital/University Medical Center, Camden, NJ




Jefferson Medical College, Philadelphia, PA


Internal Medicine

Sub Specialty

Critical Care Medicine


New Jersey