American Surgical Association Transactions

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1932 - 2016

LESLIE WISE, M.D., 1932 - 2016

Leslie Wise, MD, a member of the ASA since 1985, passed away at age 84 on December 17, 2016 in New York after a brief illness. Born Laszlo Weisz, in Budapest, Hungary. He escaped the impending Nazi occupation by traveling alone at age 15 to Australia. He later told how, despite speaking little English, he 'talked his way' into admission to Trinity Grammar School, a prestigious British-type boarding school in Sydney. Being bright and working hard to overcome adversity, Leslie earned a full scholarship to the University of Sydney, from which he obtained his medical degree. He subsequently served as an intern, junior and senior resident at the Royal Newcastle Hospital, in Newcastle, Australia, before embarking on an additional six years of surgical training in England. He trained in London's prestigious hospitals-at Hammersmith as a house surgeon, then St. James as a senior house surgeon, and then at St. Helier and St. Marks as a Surgical Registrar and Senior Surgical Registrar. While at Hammersmith, he was offered a surgical fellowship at Johns Hopkins upon completion of his studies in England. Dr. Wise came to Baltimore in 1968, to work with Dr. Walter Ballinger. He was soon promoted to Assistant Professor and Director of the Surgical Research Laboratories of the Department of Surgery.

After six years on the Washington University faculty, Dr. Wise, was recruited to become Chair of the Department of Surgery at Long Island Jewish Medical Center (LIJ), and Professor of Surgery at State University of New York at Stony Brook. Serving from 1975 until 1993, he invigorated their surgery residency and built the foundation of an academic surgery department, which has now matured to be an integral part of the Northwell Health System/Hofstra University System.

In 1993 permitted Dr. David Skinner to recruited Dr. Wise to move to Brooklyn, as Professor of Surgery at Cornell Medical College, and, as Chairman for New York Methodist Hospital. The surgical residency was about to close, and Dr. Wise rebuilt it within one year to an outstanding community program. He retired after 20 years of service. The Hospital is now known as New York Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist, and integrated with the Weill-Cornell School of Medicine.

A master educator in surgery, Dr Wise was a rapid adopter of change. Interestingly, in 1971 he presented a paper at the American Surgical Association on local excision and radiation for breast cancer. Based on Mr. York Mason's personal series at St. Helier's comparing outcomes of in 96 such treated patients with 207 treated by radical mastectomy, this publication was well ahead of its time. Knowing the need for scientific outcomes studies, he stated in the introduction that "we must emphasize at the outset that this is a retrospective review with all its limitations" (1). Dr Wise also published extensively on all general surgical topics, from appendicitis and hernia to abdominal compartment syndrome and pathogenesis of abdominal aortic aneurysms to hepatobiliary disease, inflammatory bowel disease and bariatric surgery to the impact of DRG Prospective Payments on surgical resources.

Leslie was a world traveler and connoisseur of food and wine. The former talent brought wonderful resident trainees from all over the globe to NYBPMH, many of whom remain on the faculty. In his final graduation speech as Chair in 2007, Dr. Wise stated: "I think if you can deal adequately with life's adversities, you will lead a happier life than if you cannot." He certainly practiced what he preached, including dealing with his health issues at the end of his life- which he did without complaint or compromising living his life to its fullest.

Leslie leaves a loving wife, Amalia and his children Nicholas, Julian, and Tania, and many grandchildren.