Nemours/Wolfson welcome new endowed chair of pediatric surgery

Nemours/Wolfson welcome new endowed chair of pediatric surgery
Dr. Gary Josephson, Michael Aubin, Linda Wilkinson, Anna Neal, Beth Langley, Dr. Robert W. Letton, Jr., Kathy Letton, Katherine Forester, Robin Love, Erin Wolfson, Karen Wolfson and Julie Howard

By holding a reception June 10 on the Kid’s Walk that connects Wolfson Children’s Hospital and Nemours Children’s Specialty Care, the Women’s Board at Wolfson Children’s Hospital selected the perfect kind of symbolism to welcome Dr. Robert W. Letton Jr. into his new role as both the Albert H. Wilkinson, Jr., M.D. Endowed Professorship in Pediatric Surgery Chair and as chair of the departments of surgery for both Nemours and Wolfson.

            “This represents the kind of symbol of the connectivity between Wolfson Children’s and Nemours Children’s Specialty Care,” said Michael Aubin, president of Wolfson Children’s Hospital, referring to the glass-enclosed bridge that connects the two facilities across I-95. “We are linked together, and our services are about how we go about every day to save children’s lives and make their lives better. This is the link that allows us to go back and forth all day long to make that happen,” he said before remarking that Letton’s appointment is really an “extra exclamation point” in how great the relationship between Wolfson and Nemours is.

            Letton, a board-certified pediatric surgeon, was previously the medical director of the Pediatric Trauma Program and director of Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) Program at Children’s Hospital of Oklahoma in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, where he was also the Paula Milburn Miller Endowed Chair in Pediatric Surgery. He received his undergraduate degree from Davidson College in North Carolina and his medical degree from the University of Kentucky College of Medicine. After completing his general surgery residency, including a year as the Bradshaw Research fellow at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, he spent an additional two years of training in pediatric surgery at the University of Oklahoma. Letton also served in Kuwait and Germany with the U.S. Army Reserves medical corps.

            “Dr. Letton’s experience and national reputation in pediatric surgery and trauma will further enhance our already wonderful programs,” said Dr. Gary Josephson, chief medical officer of Nemours Children’s Specialty Care. “His passion for our mission in caring for children, and his interest in promoting research, education and clinical care will assure we will provide the region with the most innovative models in caring for the children and families we serve.”

“I never had the great fortune to meet Dr. Wilkinson. I hope to live up to his commitment to clinical excellence, which I’ve heard all about as well as his legendary compassion and respect for, not only the patients and their families, but also everyone involved in helping to take care of the children regardless of how large or small their role might have been perceived in the process,” said Letton. “I truly appreciate the opportunity to be here as the first Albert H. Wilkinson, Jr., M.D. chair of surgery, and I will not take lightly the responsibility of establishing a precedent and legacy of excellence that he would have been proud of. Just like the walkway we are standing on, this endowment is truly representative of what we can accomplish when two great institutions with similar goals and dreams – Nemours, Wolfson – come together. As the chair of surgery at Nemours, I look forward to continuing to grow the partnership with Wolfson Children’s Hospital as we strive to become the center of pediatric subspecialties regionally and nationally.”

Aubin said the Albert H. Wilkinson, Jr., M.D., Endowed Professorship in Pediatric surgery was one of three ways the Women’s Board had chosen to honor Wilkinson and his legacy as one of the first and finest pediatric surgeons in Jacksonville. Wilkinson oversaw the transition of Nemours in Jacksonville from a small children’s hospital to a large multi-specialty outpatient care clinic and laid the groundwork for the partnership between Nemours and Wolfson Children’s as it stands today. In 2013, Wilkinson died at the age of 86. To honor his memory, The Women’s Board is raising $4 million over five years to fund not only Letton’s endowed position, which will enable him to lead and improve pediatric surgery in Jacksonville into the future, but also to build a trauma center at Wolfson and spur on innovation by purchasing a robotic surgical equipment so the pediatric hospital can pursue non-invasive surgery. All three elements were especially important to Wilkinson during his tenure at as a pediatric surgeon at Nemours, Aubin said. “Albert would say, if you are not innovating, you are standing still,” said Aubin in his opening remarks. “He was a big proponent to develop minimally invasive surgery and robotic surgery in the future. A robot is a million dollars so the Women’s Board committed $1 million so we could do it.”

In addition to Aubin, also speaking before the crowd were Wilkinson’s son, the Honorable Gary Wilkinson, Letton, and Josephson. Women’s Board Executive Director Sally Parsons joined Josephson in literally presenting an academic chair, inscribed with the title of his new position, to Letton to mark the event of his becoming the first Albert Wilkinson, Jr., M.D. Endowed Pediatric Surgery Chair.

            Also attending the event were Wilkinson’s wife, Linda, and his daughters and some of their children; Hugh Greene, president and CEO of Baptist Health; Don and Karen Wolfson; Dr. Warner Webb, who was Dr. Albert Wilkinson’s longtime medical partner, and his wife, Sherry; Katherine Forrester, president of The Women’s Board; Councilman Jim Love and his wife, Robin, who is a Women’s Board member; and Dr. Eric Sandler, chairman of the board of Wolfson Children’s Hospital, among others.

Holly Peek, Dr. Karen Shimshak, with Dr. Jerry Bridgham, Wolfson chief medical officer and Dr. Carolyn Bannister
Holly Peek, Dr. Karen Shimshak, with Dr. Jerry Bridgham, Wolfson chief medical officer and Dr. Carolyn Bannister
Beverly Wingate and Paris Owens, administrators with Nemours Children’s Specialty Care, Dr. Gary Josephson, Nemours chief medical officer, with Valentino Ford, director of surgery for Wolfson Children’s Hospital
Beverly Wingate and Paris Owens, administrators with Nemours Children’s Specialty Care, Dr. Gary Josephson, Nemours chief medical officer, with Valentino Ford, director of surgery for Wolfson Children’s Hospital
Karen Wolfson, Former Councilman Jim Love and his wife, Robin, with Don Wolfson
Karen Wolfson, Former Councilman Jim Love and his wife, Robin, with Don Wolfson
Dr. Robert W. Letton, Jr., The Honorable Gary Wilkinson with Linda Wilkinson, Dr. Gary Josephson, chief medical officer of Nemours Children’s Specialty Care and Michael Aubin, president of Wolfson Children’s Hospital
Dr. Robert W. Letton, Jr., The Honorable Gary Wilkinson with Linda Wilkinson, Dr. Gary Josephson, chief medical officer of Nemours Children’s Specialty Care and Michael Aubin, president of Wolfson Children’s Hospital

By Marcia Hodgson

Resident Community News

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