Stanley J. Dudrick, MD, FACS, whose research into intravenous feedings was recognized as a critical step forward in surgery, died peacefully January 18 at his home in Eaton Center, NH, at 84 years old. His commitment to developing parenteral nutrition changed the face of care for acutely ill patients and is credited with saving millions of lives.
Dedication to improving nutrition for surgical patients
Dr. Dudrick was a lifelong proponent of nutrition science. He led a groundbreaking research study in 1968 that established the fundamentals of the field. Subsequently, Dr. Dudrick and his team demonstrated the technique of safe, long-term central venous catheterization, which until then was thought to be too dangerous to be practical. They demonstrated that total parenteral nutrition (TPN) using essential amino acids was a therapeutic option for renal failure; small bowel fistulas could close spontaneously if nutrition was restored and maintained; immune incompetence could be reversed by TPN if secondary to protein-calorie malnutrition, even in patients with significant tumor burden; and other seminal discoveries.
In 1975, he collaborated with 35 health care professionals to form the American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition (ASPEN) and became its first president. ASPEN has since grown to more than 6,500 members and is one of the world’s largest organizations dedicated to improving the research and application of clinical nutrition therapies.
Dr. Dudrick had a distinguished career in academic surgery for more than 40 years. He served as the first professor and founding chair of the University of Texas Medical School at Houston and also chaired the departments of surgery at University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia; Saint Mary’s Hospital, Yale University, New Haven, CT; and Bridgeport Hospital/Yale New Haven Health System. In 2007, Dr. Dudrick was named chairman emeritus, department of surgery, and director emeritus, program of surgery, at Saint Mary’s Hospital and Yale.
Recognition from the ACS and other organizations
Dr. Dudrick became an American College of Surgeons (ACS) Fellow in 1970 and served as a Governor from 1979 to 1985. He also was a member of the Committee on Medical Motion Pictures and the Pre- and Postoperative Care Committee; Co-Chair of the Surgical Education and Self-Assessment Program; and a member of the Editorial Subcommittee for the Manual of Surgical Nutrition.
In 2005, the College recognized Dr. Dudrick with the Jacobson Innovation Award in honor of his major contributions to science, medicine, and education through his initial research and ongoing contributions to the field of nutritional support for surgical patients. Dr. Dudrick also was recognized as an ACS Icon in Surgery at Clinical Congress 2014 in San Francisco, CA. View the video presentation online.
Dr. Dudrick’s accomplishments in research, education, and clinical practice have been recognized by many other medical organizations, including the following honors: the first American Surgical Association Flance/Karl Award in 1997; the American Medical Association (AMA) Joseph B. Goldberger Award in Clinical Nutrition; the AMA Brookdale Award in Medicine; and the William E. Ladd Medal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. In 2017, Dr. Dudrick was awarded ASPEN’s first Lifetime Achievement Award.
“ASPEN’s interdisciplinary membership and approach reflects one of the principles that guided Dr. Dudrick’s life and marked his brilliant and life-changing career,” said Ezra Steiger, MD, FACS, FASPEN, AGAF. “Dr. Dudrick will be remembered as a healer and visionary, whose kindness has deeply touched many people, and whose achievements have changed the lives of many,” added ASPEN president Lingtak-Neander Chan, PharmD, BCNSP.
Read more about Dr. Dudrick’s life and career.