Duke S. Samson was born January 16, 1943, in Odessa, Texas. His father was an officer in the US Army Corps of Engineers and moved the family often during the post-war years. The Samson family returned to Odessa in 1949 where Duke received all primary and secondary education in the Odessa public school system. Duke's father was an accomplished horseman, and he followed suite early in life, with athletics as his other passion. He entered Stanford University in 1961, courtesy of a football scholarship, and excelled in the Honors Psychology Program with a minor in philosophy. Duke played football and rugby until sidelined by a knee injury in 1963. He spent six months at Stanford-in-France where he learned to speak French (poorly) and drink French wine (well). While in France, he substituted parachute jumping for collegiate football and surprisingly survived and graduated from Stanford in 1965.
Duke attended medical school at Washington University in St. Louis where he was named outstanding Senior Student in Surgery. He graduated from medical school in 1969 and served as a surgical intern at Duke University from 1969 to 1970. He then returned to his home state of Texas in 1970 to begin his neurosurgery residency at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. As a senior resident, he spent six months with Gerard Guiot in Paris, and seven months with Dr. M. Gazi Yasargil in Zurich, Switzerland. He continued his love of athletic competition, and lacking the facilities for either collegiate football or parachuting, he focused his physical prowess on the martial arts of tae kwon do and judo. At one point, Duke was third in the European tae kwon do championships and achieved the rank of brown belt in judo.
Following residency, Duke enlisted in the US Army Medical Corps and was stationed in the Western Pacific Neurosurgical Service at Clark Air Force Base, Republic of the Philippines. He was later transferred to serve at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and was "honorably" discharged from the US military in 1977. Following his service in the Army, Duke returned to Texas as a permanent fixture at UT Southwestern Medical School in Dallas at the rank of Assistant Professor of Surgery in the Division of Neurosurgery. He achieved the rank of Associate Professor in 1981 and full Professor in 1985. He was named Chairman of the Division of Neurosurgery in 1985 and engineered the complex transition to departmental status in 1989. Duke was most recently has been appointed Director of the UT Center for Clinical Research in Stroke and Spinal Cord Injury in 1998.
Duke is best noted among current and previous departmental faculty and residents as the consummate teacher and mentor. He is passionately dedicated to teaching and the succession and survival of the practical craft known as microvascular neurosurgery, and committed to patient welfare without compromise. He remains extremely active in microvascular neurosurgery and is more often than not found under an operative microscope most days of the week. As the chairman of a large department which he was primarily built and includes 9 faculty, 10 residents and 26 employees, it is no small feat to continue an active practice in this technically demanding field of vascular neurosurgery.
Duke is married to Patricia Bergen, MD, Chief of Surgical Services at the Dallas Veterans Administration Hospital. They have two sons: Lorne Daniel, age 9, and Gabriel Stanford, age 7. Duke's infrequent time away from medicine finds him pursuing interests in pistol marksmanship and western horsemanship along with being a burgeoning novelist, a good friend and doting father.