EWING THOMAS BOLES, JR. M.D.
It is my honor to review the life and professional contributions of Dr. Ewing Thomas Boles, Jr., who passed away on June 12, 2018 in Columbus, Ohio at the age of 97. Known to his family and friends as Tom, Dr. Boles was born in Cleveland, Ohio and spent his youth in Columbus, graduating from Upper Arlington High School. After two years at The Ohio State University, he transferred to the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia where he excelled in academics, graduating Phi Beta Kappa in 1942. As an undergraduate, Dr. Boles was on the swimming team, editor of the year book, and a member of Phi Kappa Tau fraternity. He attended Harvard Medical School, graduating cum laude in 1945. Following a surgical internship at St. Luke's Hospital, New York City, Dr. Boles entered the United States Army Medical Corps, serving from 1946-1948 in post-war Japan. He was a base surgeon at Ashiya Air Base, followed by chief of the surgical service at Tachikawa Air Base.
After military service, Dr. Boles returned to St. Luke's Hospital in New York City and completed two years of surgical residency. In 1950 he accepted the invitation of Dr. Robert Zollinger, Chairman of the Department of Surgery, to continue his surgical training at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. During a rotation at the Columbus Children’s Hospital with Dr. H. William Clatworthy, Jr., Dr. Boles developed an interest in pediatric surgery and made the decision to dedicate his career to the surgical care of infants and children. He completed further training in pediatric surgery at the Boston Children's Hospital under the leadership of the eminent Dr. Robert E. Gross, considered to be among the most influential pediatric surgeons in the world.
In 1954 Dr. Boles joined the Department of Pediatric Surgery at the Columbus Children's Hospital (now Nationwide Children's Hospital) and was appointed Assistant Professor of Surgery at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. He quickly established himself as a meticulous surgical technician who tackled major tumor resections, reconstructive operations for anorectal malformations and Hirschsprung's disease, and neonatal intestinal anomalies. In collaboration with Dr. John Terry, a plastic surgeon, Dr. Boles established the first burn unit in Ohio at the Columbus Children's Hospital, which he directed from 1959 to 1989. Burn Rounds with Dr. Boles took place every Wednesday morning, becoming one of the most exacting clinical educational experiences for general surgery residents, medical and nursing students, and fellows in pediatric surgery.
Dr. Boles also directed a specialized unit for the care of surgical neonates, a place that became the centerpiece of training and education for pediatric surgery residents. Nurses with advanced training in the care of surgical infants worked side-by-side with pediatric surgeons, achieving remarkable survival rates for neonates with life-threatening anomalies. He established a Surgical Index Clinic for long-term management of infants and children with congenital anomalies, another valued educational experience for pediatric surgical fellows.
Attention to detail and gentle, precise operative techniques characterized the teaching mantra of Dr. Boles for the many residents in general surgery and fellows in pediatric surgery who came under his tutelage. At the conclusion of a major operation, he crafted detailed drawings of the intraoperative findings and surgical reconstructive procedure that became part of the patient’s medical record. Known for his elegant penmanship, his hospital and clinic medical records were recognized for organization and completeness.
In 1969 Dr. Boles was discussing the state of pediatric surgery with his colleague, Dr. Lucian Leape, chief of Pediatric Surgery at the Boston Floating Hospital, while they were attending the first American Burn Association meeting in Atlanta, Georgia. They determined that pediatric surgery had gained sufficient maturity to have its own dedicated professional society dedicated to the educational needs of surgeons devoted to the care of infants, children, and adolescents. Within a year they guided twenty-two of their pediatric surgical colleagues in the establishment of the American Pediatric Surgical Association (APSA). Dr. Boles served as the eighth president of APSA from 1977–1978. His inspired leadership was recognized by the APSA membership at its fiftieth anniversary meeting in Boston in May 2019.
Dr. Boles served as the Chief of the Department of Pediatric Surgery at Columbus Children's Hospital from 1969 – 1991, Director of the Division of Pediatric Surgery, Department of Surgery, The Ohio State University College of Medicine from 1972–1991, and program director for the residency in pediatric surgery until his retirement in 1991. He authored numerous publications in prestigious surgical journals, was a frequent presenter at national and international pediatric surgical meetings, and attained the rank of Professor of Surgery in 1972. Dr. Boles was a member of several surgical associations, including the American College of Surgeons, the Section on Surgery of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the British Association of Paediatric Surgery, the Society for Surgery of the Alimentary Tract, and the International Society for Burn Injuries.
A renaissance man who had numerous interests outside of his profession, Dr. Boles was an avid devotee of the arts who enjoyed classical music and opera, and an accomplished downhill skier, golfer, and long-distance biker. He was a prodigious reader of literature and history, and delighted in foreign travel. In his later years, he took up bridge and became an exceptionally skilled player. Dr. Boles is survived by four children and a granddaughter, who recall with fondness his love of family and sustained devotion to his pediatric surgical patients and their families.
Donna A. Caniano, M.D.