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W. Glenn Young, MD

2015 Master Surgeon


W. Glenn Young, MD, was born in Washington, DC, in 1925. He received his undergraduate degree from Duke University in 1947, Phi Beta Kappa, and his medical degree from Duke University Medical School in 1948, Alpha Omega Alpha. He did his residency training at Duke in General and Thoracic Surgery under the tutelage of the first Chair of Surgery at Duke, Dr. Deryl Hart. He was appointed Assistant Professor of Surgery in 1957. During his time at Duke, Dr. Young was uniformly recognized as a superb and scholarly clinician. Trained by Dr. Hart in all facets of surgery at the time, including general surgery and thoracic surgery, Dr. Young gradually restricted his practice to cardiac and general thoracic surgery, although he took general surgery calls until his retirement.

He was known as the quiet, thoughtful, and calm surgeon who was always readily available. Because of the breadth and depth of his knowledge, and his wisdom, which was historic, he was frequently sought after as an attending on difficult thoracic or cardiac procedures by residents seeking guidance for “public patients.” An exceptional surgical educator, he refused to wear a pager but still had an uncanny ability to know when he would be needed in the operating room, and depending on the surgical resident's ability, Dr. Young would always be present for the critical components of a procedure. He would move in and out of the operating rooms quietly, providing the critical guidance required without fanfare, and conveying the essence of a procedure with a legendary verbal efficiency.

Dr. Young was also tireless in regional activities, serving as a key advisor to the North Carolina Sanatorium in McCain, North Carolina. He would make weekly rounds at McCain and identify patients who needed major surgery at Duke. Academically, Dr. Young authored or co-authored over 150 peer-reviewed publications. His most notable contributions were made in the late 1950s and early 1960s. He developed the practical methods for systemic hypothermia as an adjunct to cardiopulmonary bypass. Along with Drs. Will Sealy and Ivan Brown, he developed a blood heat exchanger that was manufactured by General Motors and served as the standard method used during the foundational expansion of open heart surgery. Additionally, he did considerable research that formed the basis for the development of cardioplegic solution, and he performed the first valve operation to cure acute bacterial endocarditis, thus ushering in the role of surgery for endocarditis. Dr. Young served as a member of the American Association for Thoracic Surgery, the American Surgical Association, and the Society of Thoracic Surgeons, among many others, and he was elected President of the Southern Thoracic Surgical Association. He rose to the rank of Professor of Surgery.

By virtue of his exceptional contributions to Duke Surgery, Dr. W. Glenn Young is recognized as a true Master Surgeon. This honor is bestowed to establish a living memory of an individual who has embodied the ideals of Duke Surgery, with the expectation that reflection on this illustrious career will serve as a guidepost for those aspiring to a life in the art and science of surgery.