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The world-renowned brain surgeon is survived by his wife, Dr. Meredith Grey, daughter Zola and son Bailey

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April 23, 2015 09:45 PM

World-renowned brain surgeon Derek Shepherd has died.

The talented doctor, whose car was broadsided after he helped to rescue victims of another accident, died Thursday shortly after doctors failed to properly diagnose the extent of his injuries.

A preeminent neurosurgeon, Shepherd’s career hit a zenith just last year when President Barack Obama personally offered him the opportunity to lead a brain-mapping initiative for the National Institutes of Health.

“It’s a beautiful day to save lives,” Shepherd was known to say. “Let’s have some fun.”

The only son of a New York-based navy nurse and a convenience store owner, Shepherd and his four sisters – all doctors as well – were raised by their mother Carolyn after their father was shot and killed during an armed robbery at his store when Derek was in his early teens.

The Bowdoin College graduate attended medical school at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons – where he met his first wife, Dr. Addison Montgomery – before going on to establish a successful practice in New York City.

In 2005, at the behest of his former teacher Dr. Richard Webber, Shepherd accepted a position at Seattle Grace Hospital in Washington.

Though Shepherd and Montgomery would divorce in 2006, the neurosurgeon soon found love again and married fellow Seattle Grace surgeon Dr. Meredith Grey in 2009.

Professionally, Shepherd continued to break new ground in the field of neurology and became the Chief of Surgery at the hospital – which had become Seattle Grace Mercy West and is now Grey Sloane Memorial – until his career was sidelined after he was shot in the chest by Gary Clark, a grieving widower who injured seven and killed eight during a shooting spree at the hospital in 2010.

Shepherd healed and returned to work with a new vigor, briefly partnering with his wife on a clinical trial to find a cure for Alzheimer’s.

The brain surgeon faced another potentially career-ending tragedy in 2012 when a private plane he and five other doctors were traveling on crashed in the woods outside Seattle.

The crash – which ultimately killed Shepherd’s sister-in-law Dr. Alexandra Grey and lifelong friend Dr. Mark Sloan – left Shepherd with a mangled hand and unable to operate for several months.

Once fully recovered, Shepherd partnered with Dr. Calliope Torres on a brain-mapping project that caught the eye of the Obama administration.

Shepherd continued to work with the NIH on the project until 2015, when he returned home to Seattle to spend time with his wife and young children: daughter, Zola, and son, Bailey.

“When my husband was first approached about this project, I was not on board,” Shepherd’s wife, the daughter of Harper Avery Award-winner Dr. Ellis Grey, said in a 2014 speech regarding Shepherd’s project. “It would take time and energy. Time away from our family. Our marriage. My work. His work. But as I soon realized, as you will tonight, that his work is vital.”

Shepherd is survived by his wife, two children, mother, younger sister, Amelia, and older sisters, Kathleen, Liz and Nancy.

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