Dr. Judson Graves Randolph, pediatric surgeon, leaves lasting legacy

Dr. Randolph

Dr. Randolph

Judson Graves Randolph, MD, FACS, a Past-Member of the American College of Surgeons (ACS) Board of Governors, died May 17, 2015, at his home in Nashville, TN. He was 87 years old. The surgical community, and particularly the pediatric surgery family, lost a true friend, colleague, and mentor with his passing.

Nashville roots

Dr. Randolph was born July 19, 1927. He grew up in Nashville, where he attended Hillsboro High School and was an Eagle Scout. He served in the U.S. Navy, 1945–1946, aboard the USS Alabama. He returned to Nashville, where he graduated from Vanderbilt University in 1950 and from Vanderbilt Medical School in 1953. In his professional life, Dr. Randolph trained in general surgery at the Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston. He trained in pediatric surgery at the Boston Children’s Hospital under the tutelage of Robert Gross, MD, FACS, whom Dr. Randolph considered an esteemed mentor. He remained in Boston on the faculty of Harvard Medical School at Boston Children’s until 1963, when he accepted the position as surgeon-in-chief of the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington DC, a post he held for nearly 30 years.

Champion for pediatric surgical education

Dr. Randolph was the first full-time pediatric surgeon in Washington, DC, and he achieved the rank of professor of surgery and pediatrics at George Washington University. Dr. Randolph was adored by his patients and families and played an active role in the care of complicated patient cases well into their adulthood. He was one of the first pediatric surgeons to focus on children’s burn care, and was a leader in the advancement of surgical care of children with cancer. He was also well known for his creativity in the care of children with complex anomalies.

Dr. Randolph provided significant leadership in developing the specialty of pediatric surgery in the U.S. Along with William Clatworthy, MD, who chaired a newly formed education committee within the surgical section of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Dr. Randolph was instrumental in establishing the requirements for the two-year training program for pediatric surgery in the U.S. and Canada in the late 1960s.

At the time, only 12 programs in North America were training pediatric surgeons. The Children’s National Medical Center program became the 13th when Dr. Randolph recruited John Lilly, MD, FACS, to come to Washington to train. Dr. Randolph was on the committee that successfully approached the American Board of Surgery to obtain specialty board certification, resulting in the Certificate of Special Competence in Pediatric Surgery.

Furthermore, Dr. Randolph was the first pediatric surgeon to represent the specialty of pediatric surgery as a director on the American Board of Surgery (1973–1979). He, along with Harvey Beardmore, MD, FACS, of McGill University, Montreal, QC, and Marc Rowe, MD, FACS, of Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, developed the first written examination in pediatric surgery.

Leader of organizations

Dr. Randolph was a long-term Fellow of the American College of Surgeons. He served as President of the Metropolitan Washington, DC, Chapter (1981–1983) and as a Governor (1971–1974). He also served on the Medical Student Education Committee (1978–1988).

He valued his membership in the ACS and enjoyed participating in ACS meetings and presenting papers for discussion. While in Washington, Dr. Randolph served as President of the Washington Academy of Surgery, Chairman of the Surgical Section of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and President of the American Pediatric Surgical Association. He was a member of the American Surgical Association and the Southern Surgical Association.

He was awarded the Ladd Gold Medal by the American Academy of Pediatrics for his surgical service to children and the Distinguished Graduate Medal by Vanderbilt Medical School.

It was a source of great satisfaction to Dr. Randolph that he trained more than 40 of the finest pediatric surgeons in this country and abroad, many of whom have become chiefs and training program directors. ACS Past-President Kathryn D. Anderson, MD, FACS, for example, was one of his trainees and then partner. Dr. Randolph always enjoyed quoting Dr. Gross: “A good pupil will always outshine his teacher.”

Dr. Randolph was a member of the Board of Trust of Vanderbilt University from 1981 to 2004, at which time he became an emeritus member. He was active in Leadership Nashville, an independent executive leadership program, and in 2007 he was elected to the Nashville Public Schools Hall of Fame.

Dr. Randolph’s wife of nearly 50 years, Comfort Adams Randolph, died in 2001. Dr. Randolph is survived by his five children: Somers of Santa Fe, NM; Garrett of Belfast, ME; Judson Jr. (Catherine) of Seattle, WA; Adam of Sewanee, TN; and Comfort (Bradford Belbas) of Edina, MN; and his eight grandchildren.

Two memorial services for Dr. Randolph were held—the first on July 25 in Nashville, and the second on August 22 in Washington, DC—to celebrate his personal and professional life there for 30 years.

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