American Surgical Association Transactions

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1927 - 2020

J. Shelton Horsley, III, M.D., 1927-2020

We are sad to report that Dr. J. Shelton Horsley III of Richmond, Virginia died on June 18, 2020, of natural causes at age 92. Shelton was the grandson of the internationally acclaimed surgeon and leader, J. Shelton Horsley, and the son and the nephew of two distinguished surgeons in Richmond. His early education was at St. Christopher's School in his native Richmond and at the University of Virginia, where he had many leadership positions and honors as well as significant achievements in tennis, baseball and even football (a true scholar-athlete).

After military service in post-war Germany he completed his undergraduate education and medical school, again with honors, at the University of Virginia. He received his residency training in General Surgery at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston and also received additional training at Memorial-Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in NYC. Dr. Horsley then returned to practice briefly in Richmond with his Uncle Guy before his recruitment to the faculty in the School of Medicine at the University of Virginia.

After 11 years as a favorite Professor in Surgery in Charlottesville Dr. Horsley returned to Richmond as Professor of Surgical Oncology and as Associate Director of the recently formed Massey Cancer Center of the Medical College of Virginia (now part of Virginia Commonwealth University). There he was awarded an American Cancer Professorship in Clinical Oncology. He was also active as an Attending Surgeon at the McGuire VA Medical Center. Again, he was repeatedly recognized by both medical students and residents as a favorite teacher and developed a special interest in breast cancer while maintaining superb skills in all of general surgery. He was widely recognized for his empathetic patient care. In the words of Dr. James Neifeld (a prior Department of Surgery Chair at VCU), Dr. Horsley was "one of the first breast surgeons, a superb teacher, a world class tennis player, and a true gentleman." He had a finely honed sense of humor, and I can recall his wisdom at conferences on many occasions, including his insight that “surgery is always a calculated risk – we do the calculating and the patients take the risk.”

Being a natural leader, Shelton enjoyed membership and often leadership in a large number of organizations ranging from the American Cancer Society and the Richmond Academy of Medicine to the American Surgical Association, American College of Surgeons, the Society of Clinical Surgeons, the Virginia Surgical Society (of which he served as President), the Southern Surgical Association and more. He was our esteemed partner until his retirement and during his time on earth, we believe Shelton Horsley clearly made a real difference!