The American College of Surgeons (ACS), and indeed all of surgery, lost one of its champions October 19, 2016, with the passing of Jay L. Grosfeld, MD, FACS. His contributions to surgery and in particular to his beloved specialty, pediatric surgery, for more than 50 years were extraordinary. He served the ACS in many roles over the years, most recently as First Vice-President (2014−2015).
Dr. Grosfeld was born in New York, NY, May 30, 1935. He grew up in New York, graduating from Midwood High School in Brooklyn and New York University (NYU) subsequently. He attended medical school at NYU and completed his general surgery training at NYU and Bellevue Hospitals (1961−1966).
Pioneering pediatric surgeon
He served two years as a Captain in the U.S. Army Medical Corps and then trained in pediatric surgery at Nationwide Children’s Hospital at the Ohio State University, Columbus, under the mentorship of William Clatworthy, MD, FACS. After completing his pediatric surgery training in 1970, he returned to New York as an assistant professor of surgery at NYU, but was promptly appointed professor and chief of pediatric surgery at Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, in 1972. He was the first surgeon-in-chief at the Riley Children’s Hospital and remained in Indianapolis for the rest of his career.
Dr. Grosfeld was a pioneer in pediatric surgery as it was emerging as a discipline, and he established the specialty of pediatric surgery in Indianapolis and, indeed, in the state of Indiana. He established the pediatric surgery training program in Indianapolis, and in 1985 he was appointed chairman of the department of surgery at Indiana University School of Medicine. He was the first pediatric surgeon in the U.S. to chair a department of surgery.
Dr. Grosfeld stepped down from his leadership positions at Indiana University in 2003 but remained actively engaged at the institution and in surgery in many important roles. He was the Lafayette F. Page Professor and Chairman Emeritus of Pediatric Surgery, department of surgery, at the Indiana University School of Medicine at the time of his death.
A Fellow of the ACS since 1973, Dr. Grosfeld served in a number of other leadership capacities in addition to his role as First Vice-President. He was a member of the ACS Advisory Council for Pediatric Surgery (1996–2001) and the Advisory Councils for Surgical Specialties (1989–1994). As an ACS Governor (1985–1991) he served on the Governors’ Committee on Chapter Relations (1989–1992) and the Committee on Physician Competency (1987–1992). He also served as a senior member on the Committee on Continuing Education (1981–1991) and on the Nominating Committee of the Fellows (1991–1992).
He held leadership positions in virtually all of the professional organizations in which he was active. He was secretary and chairman of the Section on Surgery of the American Academy of Pediatrics, president of the American Pediatric Surgical Association, president of the Halsted Society, chairman of the American Board of Surgery, and president of the American Surgical Association. He also served as president of the Central Surgical Association and the Western Surgical Association, as well as president of the World Federation of Associations of Pediatric Surgeons.
In 1998 he was awarded the Denis Browne Gold Medal by the British Association of Paediatric Surgeons, in 2002 he received the William E. Ladd Medal from the American Academy of Pediatrics, and in 2011 he was awarded the Fritz Rehbein Medal from the European Pediatric Surgical Association. Each of these represents the highest honor these associations bestow on an individual.
Dr. Grosfeld lectured worldwide and was an honorary member of 15 international surgical societies, including the Royal College of Surgeons of England and Ireland, as well as the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons, Glasgow. He received the Solomon A. Berson Medical Alumni Achievement Award in 2008 from NYU.
He was editor-in-chief of the Journal of Pediatric Surgery, Seminars in Pediatric Surgery, and the most widely used pediatric surgery textbook, Pediatric Surgery. He remained active as chairman of the board of directors of the American Pediatric Surgical Foundation and as vice-president of the American Surgical Association Foundation until his death.
Dr. Grosfeld’s service to essentially all of the major organizations in American surgery, including the ACS, is evident. Less apparent, but perhaps more noteworthy, is the fact that he used each opportunity to change and improve individual programs and organizations.
In addition to his many professional accomplishments, Dr. Grosfeld was the patriarch of a wonderful and loving family. He is survived by his wife Margie, to whom he was happily married for 54 years and with whom he shared his professional and personal journeys; his sister Claire Zucker; children Alicia Thorn, Dalia Maheu, Janice Kaefer, Jeffrey Grosfeld, and Mark Grosfeld; as well as 17 grandchildren.
Dr. Grosfeld was an influential leader, a role model, a mentor, an important investigator, and a masterful surgeon beloved by his patients, their families, and his colleagues. He made a difference for all of us who knew him and for all the pediatric surgeons who have followed in his path. He will be greatly missed.