Portrait Honors Former Temple Surgery Chair Wallace P. Ritchie, Jr., MD, PhD
“I wasn’t planning on becoming a surgeon – but after meeting Dr. Ritchie, I was sold,” said Michael Grabowski, MD, FACS, Chief of Physician Executive Surgery Services at Parkview Health, in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Grabowski was one of more than two dozen former students who came to Philadelphia last week to honor their mentor, Wallace P. Ritchie, Jr., MD, PhD, with the presentation of his portrait to the School of Medicine. Dr. Ritchie served as Chair of the Department of Surgery at Temple from 1984 to 1994.
Larry R. Kaiser, MD, FACS, Dean of Temple University School of Medicine and President and CEO of Temple University Health System. hosted the event, along with Selwyn Rogers, MD, MPH, FACS, Chair of the Department of Surgery.
James Fingleton, MD, FACS, Chief of Cardiovascular Surgery at Southcoast Health System in Massachusetts, also traveled to Philadelphia for the honor. Like Grabowski, he graduated from Temple medical school and stayed on at Temple to learn the art of surgery from Dr. Ritchie.
“I am not sure I was his favorite resident, but he was most assuredly my favorite chairperson,” recalled Fingleton. “I’ve worked under quite a few chairs – and none possessed Dr. Ritchie’s constellation of admirable qualities.”
Amy Goldberg, MD, FACS, Chief of Trauma & Critical Care Surgery at Temple, was also trained by Dr. Ritchie.
“He taught us not just to be comfortable in the Operating Room, but to thrive there,” said Goldberg, who also directs the general surgery residency program.
All the presenters expressed heartfelt gratitude for the ways in which Dr. Ritchie enriched their careers – and enhanced Temple’s surgery program and the entire profession.
Dr. Ritchie has had national influence. After leaving Temple, he served as Executive Director of the American Board of Surgery (1994-2002). He also served as president of both the Association for Academic Surgery and the Philadelphia Academy of Surgery – and sat on other national committees, including the National Institutes of Health’s Surgery and Bioengineering Study Section and the National Residency Review Committee.
Although his big-picture accomplishments were lauded, Dr. Ritchie’s contributions to Temple remained the focus of the day. He was credited with shepherding the Department of Surgery’s growth -- presiding over the development of its cardiac transplant program (Philadelphia’s first); integrating surgical research into the residency program and enabling residents to present exceptional research at the yearly American College of Surgery meeting. He added new dimension to the department and further strengthened its specialty divisions--among them trauma, GI surgery, endocrine, vascular, cardiothoracic surgery, and surgical oncology. He took special delight in positioning medical students so they would earn admittance to elite surgical training programs throughout the nation.
“It is upon the foundation built by Dr. Ritchie that we stand today,” said Dr. Rogers noting that the Department of Surgery now has 40 full-time world-class faculty members in nine divisions.
Many honors have been presented to Dr. Ritchie over the years. He received the Founder’s Medal of the Society for Surgery of the Alimentary Tract. He has won multiple teaching honors, including the Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching. The weekly Temple surgery residents’ conference is named in his honor, as is the surgery teaching award presented by residents every year.
Most poignantly, Dr. Ritchie’s legacy lives on through the scores of surgeons he trained – surgeons representing all specialties of surgery throughout the country – including many who now hold leadership roles in academic medicine.
“My tenure at Temple was absolutely wonderful,” said Dr. Ritchie, who was visiting Temple for the first time in two decades to attend the celebration in his honor.
“I am overwhelmed by the gesture, the turnout, the expressions of gratitude – the entire day,” he said.
At the close of the ceremony, Dr. Ritchie’s portrait, painted by Joseph Routon, was unveiled. It will hang at the School of Medicine in perpetuity.