Walter G. Wolfe Oral History Interviews, 1994, 2019

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Summary

Creator:
Wolfe, Walter G.
Abstract:
Dr. Walter G. Wolfe, MD (1937-2020), emeritus faculty member and a Duke cardiothoracic surgeon, led the cardiac surgery program at the Veterans Administration (VA) turning the struggling VA program into one of the most successful in the country. During his more than 50 year tenure at Duke, he was a cardiothoracic surgeon, clinician researcher, teacher, and mentor. This collection contains 2 oral history interviews conducted on July 14, 1994 by Dr. James F. Gifford and June 5, 2019 by Susannah Roberson as part of the Dr. David Sabiston Oral History Project. In the 1994 interview, Wolfe discusses his career, work of the Pulmonary Physiology Laboratory of which Wolfe was the director, the structure of the Department of Surgery, and the evolution of the Department of Surgery. In the 2019 interview, Wolfe discusses his early life, education, why he decided to join the medical profession, how he came to complete his residency at Duke, his different roles during his career at Duke, what it was like to work for and with Sabiston, and his memories of Sabiston.
Extent:
2 Interviews (1 master audiocassette tape, 1 use audiocassette tape, 2 transcripts) and 87.3 MB
Collection ID:
OH.WOLFEW

Background

Scope and content:

Includes 2 oral history interviews with Dr. Walter G. Wolfe conducted on July 14, 1994 by Dr. James F. Gifford and June 5, 2019 by Susannah Roberson as part of the Dr. David Sabiston Oral History Project. Also present for 2019 the interview were Jackie Wolfe, Ethel Atkins, and Zane Atkins.

In the July 14, 1994 interview, Wolfe discusses his career, work of the Pulmonary Physiology Laboratory of which Wolfe was the director, the structure of the Department of Surgery, and the evolution of the Department of Surgery.

In the June 5, 2019 interview, Wolfe discusses his early life, education, why he decided to join the medical profession, how he came to complete his residency at Duke and his different roles during his career at Duke, what it was like to work for and with Sabiston, and his memories of Sabiston.

Biographical / historical:

Dr. Walter George Wolfe, MD, was born on March 22, 1937 in Corry, Pennsylvania to Harold and Charlotte Wolfe. He received his BS from Denison University (1959) in Granville, Ohio, where he also played football and ran track and received a scholarship. He obtained his medical degree from Temple University (1963) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and completing an Internship year in Surgery at Philadelphia General Hospital, followed by Residency in General and Cardiothoracic Surgery at Duke University (1964), where he was both a Chief Resident and an Academic Scholar in surgery. Upon completion of his surgical training, in 1972, he became a professor in General and Cardiothoracic Surgery at Duke. During his more than 50 years at Duke, Wolfe was a cardiothoracic surgeon, clinician researcher, teacher, and mentor.

As a surgeon, Wolfe was the go-to attending for complex thoracic and cardiac cases, he was known for exceptional pre-operative judgment and decisive intraoperative skill. He was a member of the Society of Clinical Surgery, was board certified in both surgery and thoracic surgery, and was the proud owner of the last permanent certificates awarded in these disciplines.

As a clinical researcher he was a fellow at the University of California's San Francisco Cardiovascular Research Institute (1967-1968), and during his career as an academic professor of cardiothoracic surgery he wrote 186 peer reviewed publications, 85 book chapters, and three books. He was a member of the IRB at Duke through his entire career until 2019.

He was a leader in resident education and mentorship serving as Program Director of the Thoracic Residency Program at Duke University for 8 years, and as the Chief of Cardiothoracic Surgery at the Durham Veteran's Administration Medical Center for 30 years.

Duke University recognized him with many awards for teaching, including the Residency Teaching Award in Surgery, and the STSA Inspiration Award in recognition of exceptional efforts in motivating, inspiring and cultivating clinical and research talents of future cardiothoracic surgeons. He was designated a Master Surgeon at the university in 2015.

Wolfe was married to his wife Jackie for 42 years. They had 5 children together. He enjoyed gardening and his dogs, as well as being an avid sports fan and outdoorsman. Wolfe died from complications of ALS on April 13, 2020.

Acquisition information:
Accession A1994.032 (transferred by James F. Gifford), Accession A2022.010 (transferred by Mary-Russell Roberson, November 2021)
Processing information:

Processed by Archives staff: 1994: updated by Lucy Waldrop: February 2022

Arrangement:
Organized into the following series: Interview July 14, 1994; Interview, June 5, 2019.
Rules or conventions:
DACS

Contents

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Restrictions:

None.

Terms of access:

Copyright for Official University records is held by Duke University; all other copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.

Preferred citation:

[Identification of item], Walter G. Wolfe Oral History Interview, Duke University Medical Center Archives.