Philip D. Gordy
Dr. Gordy received his M.D. from the University of Michigan Medical School in 1943. Following this he served an internship and assistant residency in surgery at The New York Hospital. During this period he came under the influence of Dr. Bronson Ray. Upon completion of this service, he entered the Army Medical Corps and, after the usual initial period of training, he was sent overseas where he served in France and Germany. Though his service at Cornell had been in general surgery, every overseas assignment placed him on another neurosurgical service. First he was assigned to the neurosurgical service in Paris under Dr. Edgar A. Kahn. After several months there he was reassigned to Frankfurt, Germany where he served under Dr. Sid Gross from Mt. Sinai in New York. After transfer back to France, where he served as Chief of Surgery of the 78th Field Hospital, he was active in both general and neurosurgery.
After discharge from the Army in 1946, Dr. Gordy returned to his hometown of Ann Arbor where he was accepted as a resident in neurosurgery. His mentors at Ann Arbor were Dr. Max Peet, Dr. Edgar Kahn, and Dr. Robert Bassett. The many distinguished neurosurgical visitors to the service at Michigan were also a significant influence on his neurosurgical development. His neurosurgical training was completed in 1949. During the training period he obtained a Master's degree in neuroanatomy under Dr. Elizabeth Crosby.
After searching about for a suitable place in which to establish a practice, he visited Wilmington, Delaware; this appeared to be the ideal place, despite the fact that it was only 25 miles from Philadelphia, one of the strongholds of neurosurgery. Doctors Grant, Groff, and Scott all proved to be of great help and support to the young whippersnapper who had invaded their territory. A strong and busy practice was developed and Dr. Gordy was eventually joined, first by Dr. Livio Olmedo and then by Dr. Ray Hillyard.
Close ties were maintained with the services in Philadelphia. Dr. Gordy and his associate, Dr. Olmedo, were deeply involved in the training of the general surgical residents as they rotated through the neurosurgical service. A significant number of the residents made the decision to enter the field of neurosurgery as a result of the dedication to teaching that they encountered on the service. Doctors Gordy and Olmedo were, on more than one occasion, and in a good-humored vein, accused of stealing all the surgical residents!
In an effort to keep abreast of rapidly developing developments in the field, Dr. Gordy attended as many meetings as possible. This led to a wide acquaintance with other young neurosurgeons around the country and, eventually, to becoming a member of the group that met in St. Louis in 1951 to form the Congress of Neurological Surgeons.
Dr. Gordy was one of the founding members of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons in 1951. Active participation in the affairs of the Congress, through committee assignments, led eventually to membership on the executive committee and then to the positions of secretary-treasurer, vice president and then, in 1959, to the position of president.
The choice of a meeting site for 1959 was Miami Beach, Florida. The honored guest for this meeting was Dr. William J. German, professor of neurosurgery at Yale University. Dr. German was a unique individual and a delight to all who knew him. His manner of teaching his residents was one of gentleness and example, always stressing the need to look for the scientific basis of disease conditions. Sound clinical judgment, a keen insight into problems of the nervous system, and an appreciation of the patient as a person were hallmarks of his approach to neurosurgery.
The major theme of the Miami Beach meeting was related to the various aspects of brain tumors. The officers and members of the Congress found it a stimulating meeting and Dr. German lived up to his well-deserved reputation as a teacher of neurosurgery.
At the time of this meeting Dr. Gordy had been in practice in Wilmington, Delaware since 1949. By 1963 he felt a growing urge to leave the field of private practice and enter academic neurosurgery. Having had the opportunity to teach residents who rotated onto neurosurgery from general surgery in Wilmington, the next step seemed to be obtaining an academic position from which his interest in teaching could be more effective. The opportunity came with an appointment as associate professor of neurosurgery at The University of Oregon. Dr. George Austin was chairman of the department. Promotion to full professor occurred in due time.
After 3 years at Oregon, Dr. Gordy was requested to assume the position of Chairman of the Division of Neurosurgery at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia. During his tenure at Jefferson, Dr. Gordy restructured neurosurgery as a separate department. His service at that institution was noted for solid teaching in clinical neurosurgery, patient care, operative techniques, and for the development of city-wide neurosurgical conferences.
An auxiliary service was developed in Wilmington, Delaware through which the residents rotated to amplify their clinical operative experience. This service was directed locally by Dr. Gordy's former associate, Dr. Livio Olmedo, who was a superb technical neurosurgeon and a gifted teacher. The Jefferson service was approved by the American Board of Neurosurgery for two residents each year. A large number of residents were graduated from the service and are now practicing in various areas of the country.
After 7 years at Jefferson, Dr. Gordy made the difficult decision to leave Jefferson and return to private practice. This was occasioned largely for health reasons, but also by reason of a desire to return to the West and to resume private practice. Casper, Wyoming was suggested by some neurosurgical colleagues who recognized the town's need for a competent neurosurgeon. The move was made in January 1973, just in time for one of the worst snowstorms the area had experienced in many years, and which has not been equaled since! Casper proved to be an excellent medical community and Dr. Gordy developed a busy and well-recognized service. He was later joined by one of his former residents from the Jefferson service.
His wife, Silvia, opened The Oregon Trail Fine Arts Gallery which became a well-recognized gallery throughout the West. The gallery adjoined Dr. Gordy's office and afforded patients a variation on the usual waiting room tedium by giving them the opportunity to wander through the various gallery rooms and to enjoy the paintings and sculptures that were on display. When not in the operating room, making rounds, or in the office, Dr. Gordy was frequently called upon to do the crating and shipping for the gallery!
Dr. Gordy made the difficult decision to retire from active neurosurgery in 1984. In this same year, he recognized the need for a rehabilitation service in Casper, and proposed to the hospital board that such a service be developed. The proposal was accepted, and Dr. Gordy served a "mini-residency" in Rehabilitation Medicine at St. Joseph's Hospital in Albuquerque. He then served as medical director of the service until 1986 at which time he retired once again! His colleagues in the operating room and on the rehabilitation service commented that he retired so often because he liked the retirement parties so much! In fact he was given a plaque on which were fastened crossed Adson elevators with the caption below saying, "Never again!"
Since 1986 Dr. Gordy has been busy with writing, woodworking, dubbing around on the violin and the viola, and periodic participation in medicolegal defense work. He and Silvia enjoy traveling, especially in the Rocky Mountains and in Spain (when the retirement funds permit). They are also amateur archeologists and pursue that interest whenever Wyoming weather permits. Silvia continues to sell some art from their extensive collection, left over from when the gallery was closed. It seems only yesterday that the 11 "young turks" assembled in St. Louis and proposed the revolutionary idea of a new neurosurgical society devoted primarily to the special interests and needs of "the younger neurosurgeon." Dr. Gordy seriously doubts that we can continue to think of ourselves in that category. However, to see what has developed, with the status of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons as one of the great neurosurgical organizations of the world; its close cooperation with the American Association of Neurological Surgeons; and its emphasis on neurosurgical excellence in teaching, research, and socio-economic development for the betterment of the neurosurgical patients; makes him proud indeed to be a part of the 40th anniversary celebration of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons.