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William Thomas Fitts, Jr.
John Rhea Barton Professor Chairman of the Department of Surgery, Medical School (1972-75)

William T. Fitts, Jr. (1915-1980), a 1940 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, where he was first in his class, was the father of Law Dean Michael A. Fitts. Dr. Fitts rose through the faculty to become the John Rhea Barton Professor and Chairman of the Department of Surgery at the Medical School for the period from 1972 to 1975.

Born in Jackson, Tennessee in 1915, Dr. Fitts completed his medical training at Penn before he was drafted into the Marine Corps as a Lieutenant during World War II. Rising to the rank of Captain, he served as a surgical ward officer with the 20th General Hospital of the U.S. Army, a Penn-affiliated hospital, in the China-Burma-India theatre.

He returned to Penn in 1945 to become an assistant instructor in surgery at the School of Medicine and attained full professor status in 1956. Dr. Fitts was a specialist in cancer and abdominal surgery who became a renowned expert in the specialty of trauma surgery. He was at the forefront of physicians who called for improvements in emergency medicine and care and who served as president and board chairman of the American Association for the Surgery of Trauma.

In recognition of his commitment to this field, in 1974 the association established the William T. Fitts, Jr. Lectureship, which has been delivered annually at the association's meetings. He was described by Leonard D. Miller, M.D., Dr. Fitts' successor as Barton Professor and Department Chair, as "a general surgeon with vast experience, superb clinical judgment, and extraordinary compassion for his patients. He was a masterful clinician and teacher and an avid student of surgery all of his life. Possessed of wide intellectual interests and accomplishments, he retained the common touch. He was a legend to his patients and they were devoted to him, as were all who knew him."

In 1964, Dr. Fitts was awarded the Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching, and in 1979 he was the recipient of the University of Pennsylvania's Alumni Award of Merit. During the 1970s he was a member of the Executive Committee of the Campus Committee for the "Program for the Eighties" fundraising campaign, becoming Chairman in 1978.

The William T. Fitts, Jr. Surgery Education Center was recently built in the Department of Surgery at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania to provide a state-of-the-art library for the faculty and the house staff. It includes full media access to the most up-to-date surgical aids and techniques through connections to the University of Pennsylvania Health System resources and the University's library system.