American Surgical Association Transactions

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1924 - 2018

Gilbert S. Campbell, M.D., Ph.D., 1924 - 2018

On January 9, 2018, the American Surgical Association lost an outstanding member, and the world lost an important surgical educator. Dr. Gilbert S. "Gil" Campbell died in Little Rock, Arkansas. He was 94.

Dr. Campbell was very proud of his southern roots. He grew up in Charlottesville, Virginia, where he graduated from high school at the age of 15. He attended the University of Virginia for undergraduate and medical studies, receiving his medical degree in 1946. As an undergraduate, Dr. Campbell was selected for membership in the Raven Society, the oldest and most prestigious honorary society at the University of Virginia. During medical school, he received the Horsley Prize for excellence in research. He trained in general and thoracic surgery at the University of Minnesota under the renowned surgical educator and investigator Dr. Owen Wangensteen. Dr. Campbell was a dedicated surgical researcher, earning a Master of Science degree in physiology (1949) and a doctorate in surgery (1954).

Dr. Campbell began his career in the early days of heart surgery. He served as chief of surgery at the Oklahoma City Veterans Administration Hospital and chief of thoracic surgery at the University of Oklahoma Medical Center from 1958 to 1965. He was a member of the cardiovascular team that introduced open-heart surgery in Oklahoma. While there, Dr. Campbell was recognized as a Markle Scholar, one of only three at the university at that time.

In 1965, Dr. Campbell was recruited to the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) to serve as chairman of the Department of Surgery, a position he held until 1983. His greatest joy was recruiting, training and mentoring a legion of outstanding residents who went on to successful surgical careers of their own, mostly in Arkansas. During his tenure at UAMS, he trained over 100 residents and 2,000 medical students. In 2004, he was among the initial inductees into the UAMS College of Medicine Hall of Fame. In 2015, Dr. Campbell’s contributions to surgical education and research and the creation of a strong department of surgery were recognized by a special citation from the Arkansas State Senate. That same year, he was honored by dozens of his former residents who gathered in love and gratitude to extend one last “Hail to the Chief.” Dr. Campbell was the most powerful professional influence on a generation of surgeons in Arkansas.

Dr. Campbell was a patriot and soldier. In 1949-50, he worked at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center as instructor and head of the experimental laboratory. During 1950-51, he was a captain and surgeon in the 3rd Battalion of the 7th Infantry Regiment of the U.S. Army Medical Corps in Japan and Korea. He served near the firing line, treating the wounded before evacuation. He was recognized by his fellow infantrymen as a fearless and highly skilled surgeon. For his service, Dr. Campbell was awarded two Silver Stars, two Bronze Stars, and a Purple Heart.

Dr. Campbell was a man of great humility and goodwill and a tremendously entertaining character. Whether playing the piano and crooning his favorite songs or sharing a joke, a humorous story from his past, or a witty one-liner, he rarely missed an opportunity to evoke laughter, or at least a smile. Insightful humor was a Campbell trademark during presentations at surgical meetings locally and nationally.

Everyone who shared in Dr. Campbell's exciting life - family, friends, students, colleagues and patients - will remember him as a great scholar, an outstanding surgeon, an influential teacher and a brave soldier.