American Surgical Association Transactions

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1921 - 2016

MELVIN A. BLOCK, M.D., 1921 - 2016

Melvin A. Block was born in Evansville, Indiana in 1921. He graduated from Indiana University in 1942 and entered Indiana University School of Medicine. He received his MD degree after only 2˝ years of study and was elected to Alpha Omega Alpha. He interned at the affiliated hospitals of Indiana University School of Medicine. He entered the United States Army in 1945 as a Captain and served through 1947. He was a member of the original Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission and initiated investigations about the medical effects of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. Ultimately he helped establish the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission and obtained prolonged funding for the study of the medical consequences of the bombings.

Dr. Block left the Army in 1948 and started surgical residency at the Mayo Clinic. During his training he obtained a Doctor of Philosophy in Surgery from the University of Minnesota in 1953 for his studies on renal physiology and pathophysiology. In 1954 he was certified by the American Board of Surgery and joined the staff of the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. Trained as a general surgeon he began his practice and was active in all areas of this field. However he gradually developed a focused interest in thyroid and parathyroid surgery. He developed successful clinical and research collaborations with the endocrinologists at Ford, with Dr. Frame on patients with parathyroid disorders and with Dr. Jackson on patients with hereditary multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2 syndrome. Mel authored nearly 200 papers on these subjects and was recognized as one of the pioneers in endocrine surgery. In addition to the American Surgical Association he was a member of the Central Surgical Association, the American Thyroid Association, the Western Surgical Association, the International Association of Endocrine Surgeons, the Societe Internationale de Chirurgie, the Society for Surgery of the Alimentary Tract, the Society of Head and Neck Surgeons and the American Gastroenterologic Association. He was President of the Southeastern Michigan Surgical Society, the Academy of Surgery of Detroit and the Western Surgical Association. He was a charter member and council member of the American Association of Endocrine Surgeons.

His easy going demeanor, organizational skills and dedication to patient care led to increasing responsibilities at Henry Ford Hospital. He became Division Head of General Surgery in 1957, Director of Resident education in 1966, Clinical Professor of Surgery at the University of Michigan in 1970. In 1975, he became Chairman of Surgery at Ford and was a member of the Council of Ford Hospital.

In 1979 he accepted an offer from the Scripps Clinic in La Jolla, California. His wife, Marcia Jean, was a native Californian and this was an opportunity for her to return home. Dr. Block completed his professional career at the Scripps Clinic. He married Marcia Jean Block on April 28, 1955. The Blocks were married 52 years and had two children. Marcia Jean passed away in 2008 in San Diego and Dr. Block died on November 5, 2016 in San Diego at the age of 95. He is buried at Miramar National Cemetery in San Diego, California.