American Surgical Association Transactions

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1921 – 2015

C. FREDERICK KITTLE, M.D., 1921 – 2015

C. Frederick Kittle, affectionately called "Fred" by his colleagues and friends, passed away on 10/18/15, at the age of 93. He was the son of Frederick and Nora (Ida) Kittle and was born in Athens, Ohio, in 1921. His early years were spent working for his father’s lumber company, both in the lumber yard and building houses. In high school, Dr. Kittle was a superior student, earning first prizes in all high school subjects. This achievement allowed him to take extra courses in biology, permitting him time in the countryside to study the foliage and animals.

His subsequent introduction to chemistry then directed him to a career in science. He graduated from Ohio University, also in Athens, Ohio; majoring in biology and achieving the honor of Phi Beta Kappa. He received the Thomas Bayard prize in biology for his academic effort. He was a loyal alumnus of Ohio University and received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the university in 1962. It was awarded for "exemplary devotion to your profession and research in the areas of thoracic and cardiovascular surgery which has led to important new knowledge." In 1966, Ohio University had honored him as Outstanding Alumnus of the Year.

He entered medical school at the University of Chicago and received his M.D. with honors in surgery and also Alpha Omega Alpha recognition. Internship was completed at the University of Chicago Clinics. He joined the U.S. Navy in 1946 and was in charge of laboratory services at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Los Angeles, California.

General and thoracic surgical residencies were carried out from 1948 to 1952 at the University of Kansas Medical Center. This four year training period was much briefer than what is required today. His career in thoracic surgery started at the University of Kansas School of Medicine in Kansas City as an instructor in surgery. He was named a John and Mary R. Markle Scholar in medical sciences from 1953 to 1958. An extensive medical library was available at Kansas and Dr. Kittle, who treasured books, developed a strong interest in medical history. He was appointed Lecturer in the History of Medicine and gave many sessions on varied topics at Kansas. He was appointed Associate Professor in 1959 and he produced many publications on pediatric and adult cardiac surgery and also general thoracic surgical topics. At Kansas, he was vigorous in his efforts to ban cigarette vending machines, as he realized their causal relationship to lung cancer. Kansas became the first state to ban cigarette sales at its colleges.

He assumed the position of Head of the Section of Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery at the University of Chicago in 1966. There, he performed many adult and pediatric cardiac procedures, along with general thoracic operations. His vigorous oncologic and clinical effort turned to general thoracic surgery and he joined the staff of the Rush University Medical Center as Director of the Section of Thoracic Surgery in 1973. His clinical efforts focused on the surgical treatment of mesothelioma, bronchoplastic techniques to conserve lung tissue in lung cancer procedures, and the neoadjuvant treatment of advanced lung cancer. From 1978 to 1986, he also served as Director of the Rush Cancer Center. He was very active in these positions until 1992, when he retired from active surgery. His bibliography includes over 200 manuscripts and chapters on both cardiac and general thoracic topics. He edited the textbook, "Current Controversies in Thoracic Surgery."

Dr. Kittle's administrative ability and medical knowledge were recognized by the many societies and organizations in which he was a member. He was named the American Surgical Association's representative as a Director of the American Board of Thoracic Surgery and served from 1965 to 1975. He was Chairman of the Board from 1973 to 1975. He also represented the American Surgical Association on the National Council for Medical Research. For the American College of Surgeons, he served on the Board of Governors, the Cardiovascular Surgery Committee, Credentials in Cancer Committee and was Chairman of a postgraduate course. He was on the Executive Committee of the American Heart Association and Associate Editor of the Heart Bulletin, and Chairman of the Board of Governors of the American College of Cardiology. He served as Presidents of the Chicago Surgical Society, Illinois Thoracic Surgical Society, Society of Medical History of Chicago, and the Society of University Surgeons. He was on the Executive Council of the Society of Thoracic Surgeons from 1969 to 1972.

Dr. Kittle's medical accomplishments were significant, but he will be equally remembered for his outstanding collection of books and manuscripts relating to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, author of the Sherlock Holmes detective stories. Dr. Kittle was stimulated to read in high school and his interests were highlighted by the Dr. John Doolittle stories, written by Hugh Lofting. He continued his research on Doolittle manuscripts and came upon Sherlock Holmes, written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. When he learned that Doyle was a doctor, his entire collective efforts turned to that author. It became a second and simultaneous career. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle received a Master’s in Surgery and his M.D. from Edinburgh in 1885. It has been stated that Dr. Kittle did amass the world's finest and largest Doyle library collection. His Doyle collection began when he obtained a 19-page handwritten manuscript of a lecture Doyle gave at St. Mary's Hospital Medical School in London, titled, "The Romance of Medicine." This further inspired Dr. Kittle’s interest in Doyle and he collected and researched everything he could find. The library collection consists of original manuscripts, books, original Doyle letters dated between 1890 and 1930, periodicals, photographs, and file drawers of material pertaining to Doyle. This work resulted in his admittance in 1985 to the historic and prestigious Caxton Club of Chicago. The Caxton Club promotes the arts pertaining to books and fosters their appreciation. He served as its President from 1999 to 2001. Dr. Kittle was a life trustee of the Newberry Library of Chicago and the Ann and C. Frederick Kittle collection of Doyleana was donated to the library.

Always a gentleman and a scholar, Dr. Kittle was an accomplished thoracic surgeon. His advice and counsel was sought after by many patients, colleagues, and residents Those who interviewed him on occasion thought he might be a reincarnation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Dr. Kittle suffered a stroke in 2002 that was physically debilitating, but his mind remained sharp as ever. He visited the department and conferences in his wheelchair and always entered the discussion.

Dr. Kittle is survived by his loving wife, Ann (Bates), whom he married in 1981. Her dedicated and outstanding care prolonged his life for many years. Other survivors include a daughter, Leslie Wilkin, sons Brad and Brian, 13 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren. A daughter, Candace Schafer Mills, died in 2014 and he was predeceased by his first wife, Jeane.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle tips his hat to an accomplished historian and thoracic surgeon.