Robert Milton Zollinger

Professor of Medicine, Ohio State University, Millersport, Ohio, 1903 - 1992

Robert Milton Zollinger was born on the 4th of September 1903 in Fairfield County, Ohio, and grew up on his family's farm. Already as a boy he proved himself unusually industrious, establishing a thriving business using his pony and a cart. He originally wanted to attend West Point, but changed to medicine, and graduated as an M.D. from Ohio State University in 1927. After the completion of his surgical training he was appointed assistant professor of Harvard Medical School. He subsequently worked with Elliot Carr Cutler (*1888, +1947) at the Western Reserve Hospital in Cleveland, where one of his jobs was to classify Cutler's collection of brain tumors. He served his internship at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, before going back to Western Reserve in 1929 for his residency. From 1939 onwards he was Assistant Professor of Surgery at Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, and with Cutler, who was Moseley Professor of Surgery, he published the first of seven editions of the now famous Atlas of Surgical Operations.

During World War II Robert Milton Zollinger served with the Harvard Unit in the Medical Corps of the US Army in Ireland, where he relaxed from his demanding official duties by cultivating roses. During his service time he rose to commander of the 5th General Hospital and the rank of colonel. He earned the Legion of Merit Award for the development of mobile surgical teams, and the Battle Stars for Normandy, Northern France and the Rhineland.

After the war Zollinger returned to Harvard, but in 1947 he became professor and chairman of the department of surgery of Ohio State University, where he occupied that post until he retired with emeritus status in 1974. Zollinger, respected by his peers, feared by his students and loved by his patients, was president of several professional bodies, including the American Surgical Association, the American Board of Surgery, the American College of Surgeons - as well as the American Rose Society. He received numerous other honors and awards, and published more than 340 articles, mainly in the field of gastro intestinal surgery. Despite his busy schedule Zollinger was also the editor-in-chief of the American Journal of Surgery from 1958 to 1986.

He is best known for the "Zollinger-Ellison Syndrome", which refers to a gastrin-secreting tumor of the pancreas that causes ulceration of the upper gastro-intestinal tract. Patients who fail to respond to treatment for a peptic ulcer may instead suffer from this syndrome. In most cases such tumors are malignant, and tend to spread to the liver.

Reference: Obituary Document on the Web.

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