October 8, 1999

VUMC mourns loss of surgical pioneer

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Dr. Louis Rosenfeld

VUMC mourns loss of surgical pioneer

Dr. Louis Rosenfeld, clinical professor of Surgery, Emeritus, and a true giant in Vanderbilt's long and illustrious history of surgical excellence, died last week at the age of 88.

His love of Vanderbilt was strong and his association lasting — he received both his undergraduate and medical degrees from Vanderbilt, and joined the faculty 60 years ago.

In addition to his accomplishments as a surgeon and professor, Dr. Rosenfeld was also an author and historian. He wrote Memoirs of a Surgical House Officer; Barney Brooks, M.D.; and was co-author of History of Surgery at Vanderbilt University. A decorated military veteran, he also wrote The Fighting 300th, an account of his experiences with the World War II Vanderbilt surgical unit.

Dr. Rosenfeld received his B.A. from Vanderbilt in 1933 and his M.D. from VUSM in 1936. He completed his training in general surgery in 1942 prior to entering the U.S. Army. Following his military service, he switched his focus from thoracic surgery to become a pioneer in the field of head and neck surgery at the urging of Dr. Barney Brooks, the legendary former chair of Vanderbilt's Department of Surgery.

"He was a wonderful man and one of the most loyal volunteer faculty members in the history of this school," said Dr. James A. O'Neill Jr., John Clinton Foshee Distinguished Professor and Director of the Section of Surgical Sciences.

"He was a mainstay in teaching at least two generations of surgical residents about the intricacies of head and neck cancer surgery and he was held in the highest respect by surgeons in this region and across the country for his expertise.

“He was a leader in every way; at Vanderbilt, in the community and in the region."

Dr. Rosenfeld's dedication to surgical education at Vanderbilt was so admired and appreciated that in 1996 he became the first volunteer faculty member to be presented the Vanderbilt Surgery Gold Medal for Achievement and Contribution.

"We were fortunate to have such a man, who was generous in sharing his talents, on our faculty. He was a wonderful man, and we shall miss him," O'Neill said.

Other colleagues agreed.

"Dr. Rosenfeld was a true renaissance man," said Dr. John E. Chapman, dean of the School of Medicine.

"He was a classic scholar in the classic sense — surgeon, teacher, author, historian, friend. He was so many things, but most of all, he was a good and honorable representative of his profession, of Vanderbilt, and of his country."

"Dr. Rosenfeld was always extremely loyal to Vanderbilt and had a keen interest in teaching," said Dr. John L. Sawyers, professor of Surgery, Emeritus. "Teaching was always very important to him, as was the practice of surgery, in which he was prominent nationally."

Dr. Rosenfeld focused primarily on head and neck surgery for 37 years and taught surgery for 46 years at VUSM, the Veterans Administration Hospital and at the former Nashville General Hospital. He was a founder of the Society of Head and Neck Surgeons and was a member of the Society of University Surgeons, the Southern Surgical Association, the Nashville Surgical Society, the Southeastern Surgical Congress, the H. William Scott Surgical Society, Alpha Omega Alpha Honorary Medical Society and was a fellow of the American College of Surgeons.

He served as president of numerous organizations, including the Nashville Surgical Society, Nashville-Davidson County Academy of Medicine, Vanderbilt Medical Alumni Association and the Nashville chapter of the American Cancer Society.

Dr. Rosenfeld was the husband of the late Helen Werthan Rosenfeld, who died in 1996. Survivors include sons, Dr. Robert Louis Rosenfeld and Roger Werthan Cohn; and three grandchildren, all from Nashville.

Contributions may be made to the Helen and Louis Rosenfeld Scholarship Fund, Medical Center Development Office, 301 Medical Center South.