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WILLIAM W.L. GLENN: SURGEON-SCIENTIST, INVENTOR, AND NESS PRESIDENT
*Andrew C.W. Baldwin, *John C. Baldwin, Walter E. Longo
Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, CT

Objective: Examine the life of Dr. William Glenn, a prominent member of a pioneering generation of cardiothoracic surgeons, and titan of surgery in New England.
Design: Archival
Setting: Historical
Patients/Interventions/Outcomes: N/A
Results: Upon completion of his training at Massachusetts General Hospital, Glenn served in World War II–an experience that helped to develop the innovative spirit that would define his career. Glenn would later join the faculty of Yale where he served as chief of cardiovascular surgery until his retirement.
Perhaps best known of his many accomplishments was the formulation of the surgical procedure that would ultimately bear his name–the Glenn shunt–which continues as a mainstay in the treatment of congenital heart disease. In addition to pioneering surgical techniques and authorship of his prominent cardiothoracic textbook, Glenn helped to develop groundbreaking applications for radiofrequency stimulation of the heart and diaphragm, and famously developed an experimental artificial heart model using a child’s Erector Set–now housed in the Smithsonian Institution.
Glenn’s influence on the field of academic surgery is evidenced by the leadership positions he held within a number of prominent medical societies–honors that included being the first surgeon elected president of the American Heart Association, and serving as president of the New England Surgical Society in 1984.
His presidential address during this society’s 65th meeting was dedicated to another of his long-time interests–the life of Benjamin Franklin–chronicling Franklin’s own scientific accomplishments and their influence on the medical field.
Conclusions: William Glenn’s legacy within New England and throughout the world continues to influence new generations of surgeons–not only through the ongoing relevance of his contributions, but also by inspiring the use of creative thinking in advanced clinical practice.


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