The University of Louisville moved on Thursday, Feb. 16 to rename the Department
of Surgery after its former long-time chair Hiram Polk, M.D
. The new name is the Hiram C. Polk Jr., M.D., Department
Dr. Polk's leadership was instrumental in our Department of Surgery's growth in
clinical care, teaching and research, said Dr. James Ramsey, president of the University
of Louisville. He helped to create the foundation that has made people seek out
our department for the surgical clinical care, education and training it provides.
As part of the renaming, the University has received nearly $6 million for the Hiram
C. Polk, Jr, M.D., Endowment from some 300 people throughout the nation to support
the clinical and research needs of the department.
This funding is vital to our ongoing effort to recruit and retain the best and
brightest faculty with an interest in independent investigation, said Dr. Kelly
McMasters, Ben A. Reid, Sr., M.D., Chair, Department of Surgery. As the NIH
budget dwindles, it has become increasingly difficult for young academic surgeons
to launch and maintain their research programs. This endowment will provide startup
and bridge funding to assure that surgical investigators have the best possible
chance to develop and maintain their research projects. It also allows us to remain
at the leading edge of academic surgery and provide the latest and best treatments
for our patients, as well as the best educational opportunities for our residents
Dr. Charlie Shields, a 1969 UofL School of Medicine graduate who completed his general
surgery residency at UofL, and Jack and Debbie Oxley through the Oxley Foundation
each provided $1 million to the endowment. Dr. Jim and Diane Payne donated $500,000.
Dr. Payne was a plastic surgery resident at UofL.
The generosity of our alumni, community members and other friends is enormous,
Ramsey said. They have shown yet again how much they value our University and the
people who make it such a great place.
Polk served as the Ben A. Reid, Sr., M.D., Professor and Chair of Surgery at
the University of Louisville from 1971 to 2005 when he was named the Ben A. Reid
Sr., M.D., Emeritus Professor of Surgery. Polk became not only the longest serving
chair of a surgery department in the country but also one of the world's best-known
and respected surgeons. During his 34-year tenure, the department saw the development
of a prominent trauma center, as well as advances in control of surgical infection
and was the site of the first self-contained mechanical heart and hand transplants.
The department's resident physicians, fellows and former faculty hold major positions
of organizational and institutional leadership on five continents.
A native of Jackson, Miss., and alumnus of Millsaps College and the Harvard Medical
School, Polk trained in Surgery at Washington University in St. Louis. He was a
fellow at the Lister Institute of Preventive Medicine in London while at the University
of Miami and at the Institut Pasteur in Paris.
In 1971, he was recruited to the University of Louisville as Chair of Surgery
and oversaw the development of the department into a well-respected center for research
and surgical education. His further commitment to medical student education was
defined by more than two dozen Golden Apple awards to different members of the surgical
faculty during that period.
More than 230 surgical residents trained with him at UofL and as many other specialists
in all surgical fields: literally, multiple generations of physicians.
Dr. Polk constantly studied and emphasized the causes, prevention and treatment
of many diseases requiring surgical attention, for which he was honored by Presidencies
or Chairmanships of more than a dozen national and international surgical organizations.
Polk's most significant contribution to medicine is his landmark research into the
use of perioperative antibiotics. Additionally, Polk helped develop some protocols
for malignant melanoma treatment that are currently in use worldwide.
In 2008, Polk succeeded Dr. Michael DeBakey as chair of the Board of Governors of
the Foundation for Biomedical Research. In 2011, he was named an Honorary Fellow
of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, standing alongside his prior election
to the world's oldest surgical College in Edinburgh, Scotland (founded 1505).
This significant milestone is a true testament to the impact Dr. Polk has made
in the lives of our students, faculty, staff, patients and friends, Dr. McMasters
said. We extend our heartfelt thanks to all who have donated to the Polk Endowment
to see his legacy realized.