American Surgical Association Transactions

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1921 - 2015

WILLIAM E. DEMUTH, JR., M.D., 1921 - 2015

William E. DeMuth, Jr., M.D. passed away September 11, 2015 at 94 years of age, in Carlisle Pennsylvania, having lived a full and rewarding life as husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, gifted surgeon, and rugged outdoorsman. He graduated from Franklin and Marshall College in 1943 and received his Doctor of Medicine degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1946. His surgical internship and residency at the Hospitals of the University of Pennsylvania was followed by active duty at the Valley Forge General Hospital and the 376 Station in Japan, completing active duty in 1950 as Captain. Dr. Isadore Ravdin and many surgical faculty members from the University of Pennsylvania were deployed to the 20th General Hospital in Burma during Dr. DeMuth’s surgical training, affording him a rich and diverse surgical experience in abdominal and chest surgery. His academic career began at the University of Pennsylvania; as Assistant and Associate Professor of Surgery during which he served as consultant at several hospitals in south central and eastern Pennsylvania and Chief of Surgery at the Carlisle Hospital, Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

With his vast clinical experience, Dr. DeMuth was recruited to The Milton S. Hershey Medical Center of the Pennsylvania State University, in its very early years, as Professor of Surgery in 1971, to broaden and deepen faculty expertise in general and thoracic surgery. Dr. DeMuth was rapidly recognized by peers and residents as being knowledgeable, approachable, technically fast and facile, an outstanding educator and a mature clinical surgeon. He was revered by the resident staff, who knew that they could never be a step ahead of him and if they fell behind, would lose a very special educational experience. He was a no nonsense professor who was always willing to impart his knowledge of medical and surgical diseases and his tricks in the operating room to every resident who was sincerely interested. He took on the most difficult cases in abdominal and chest surgery as well as caring for trauma patients, with few complications. His patients knew that they were in the most capable hands and were assured that he would always have their best interest as highest priority. His contributions to discussions at Morbidity and Mortality Conferences were poignant and always on target, never belittling anyone. His contributions made the weekly conference a true learning experience for all in attendance. Often, he “held court” during lunch hours at the faculty table. Everyone, including non-surgical faculty, were impressed with his comprehensive medical and surgical knowledge, usually interspersed with intriguing stories of surgery, fishing, and hunting.

He had a keen intellect and an unquenchable inquisitiveness as evidenced by his collaboration with colleagues at The Pennsylvania State University Department of Mechanical Engineering, studying the relationship between muzzle velocity of commonly used game rifles and tissue damage, and the velocity at which particles picked up by rotary lawnmowers were ejected, with resultant penetrating tissue injury. He authored or co-authored a large number of publications in peer-reviewed journals that covered a broad range of clinical topics. Between 1977 and 1983 he served as the Assistant Dean for Continuing Education at The Penn State University College of Medicine.

Everyone enjoyed spending time with Bill. His magnetic personality, vast surgical experience and commitment to the highest quality patient care set him apart as a unique “surgeon’s surgeon”. In retirement, he frequently attended Surgical Grand Rounds, asking questions that demonstrated evidence of his contemporary understanding of the basic and clinical science being presented. He was predeceased by his wife of 63 years, Emma Baer DeMuth, in 2007. He is survived by three sons and their spouses, seven grandchildren and one great grandson. Rarely does one have the privilege of spending time with a person like Bill. His presence was always evident, his insights clear, his fishing and hunting exploits notable and his ability to say what needed to be said or to spin a tale captivating. One could not help but be charmed in his presence.