Earl Wolfman, who with founding Dean John Tupper laid the groundwork that began the UC Davis School of Medicine, has established an endowed fund to create a new professorship in the Department of Surgery.
Wolfman served as founding associate dean for more than seven years, beginning with the school's formation in 1966. He was also the founding chair of the Department of Surgery and chair of the Division of Surgical Sciences, encompassing 10 academic departments. He was responsible for recruiting chairs for each of those departments, obtaining accreditation from national accrediting agencies, and for postgraduate specialty training in each department.
Enhancing faculty recruitment
Wolfman credits his wife, Lois – who died in September 2007 – for strongly supporting the couple's endowment gift. The Earl F. Wolfman, Jr., M.D., and Lois J. Wolfman Endowed Fund will enhance recruitment activities, and fund education and research in basic sciences related to surgery, as well as studies of the clinical management of surgical patients.
The professorship will be filled by an academic surgeon from a nationally approved School of Medicine in this country who has broad clinical experience in general surgery and productive research with consistent publications in peer-reviewed journals.
Building a school
"When John Tupper and I first arrived at UC Davis, we had no buildings, no students, no faculty and no hospital – nothing except the two of us and a state legislative action that approved establishment of a medical school. Initially our space allocation consisted of a single 10-by-10-foot office that we shared with two secretaries in a temporary building," he recalls. "We consummated an affiliation agreement with the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors in August 1966 to use the Sacramento County Hospital as our clinical and teaching facility. Our first class of 48 medical students was admitted in September 1968, two and a half years after our arrival. That was the fastest start of a new School of Medicine in this country in the modern era of medical education."
David H. Wisner, professor and chair of the Department of Surgery, praises Wolfman's "inspirational and guiding" work.
"I first met Earl when I was a third-year student, and have worked with him since as both a resident and a faculty colleague. His achievements speak for themselves, but on a personal level, one of the things that has always impressed me about Earl is his unfailingly genteel manner," Wisner says.
"I am very pleased, as was my wife, to be able to make this lasting contribution to the UC Davis Department of Surgery to support the work of future generations of surgeons and the advancement of surgery at the UC Davis School of Medicine."
"He has remained an ardent supporter of ours even in retirement. He is a true gentleman, and we are lucky to have him as a friend and member of the department."
Wolfman, who retired and attained emeritus status in 1991, also served the field of medicine through multiple elected terms representing 18 Northern California counties in the American Medical Association's house of delegates. Physicians throughout the state also elected him to serve on the board of trustees of the California Medical Association to represent all of the state's surgical and non-surgical specialties.
The early years
Earl and Lois Wolfman met while in high school, and went on their first date on Dec. 4, 1941 – three days before the attack on Pearl Harbor. They married in 1946, when Earl was a first-year medical student at the University of Michigan. During the early years of their marriage, Lois worked as a dietitian. Wolfman was called to active military duty as a Navy medical officer during the Korean War. Because he already had begun surgical training, he served as a battalion surgeon and treated wounded combat personnel.
Following completion of his postwar surgical training, Wolfman joined the faculty of the University of Michigan, with which he remained for nine years until accepting the position at UC Davis. The couple, who raised three children, were married for 61 years at the time of Lois' death.
"I am very pleased, as was my wife, to be able to make this lasting contribution to the UC Davis Department of Surgery to support the work of future generations of surgeons and the advancement of surgery at the UC Davis School of Medicine," Wolfman says.
Wolfman has spent much of his time in recent years writing a history of the founding of the UC Davis School of Medicine, with emphasis on the development of each of the surgical departments.
Spring / Summer 2010
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