George F. Sheldon, MD: Third Chairman

sheldonOn March 1, 1984, George F. Sheldon, MD, was appointed Zack D. Owens Distinguished Professor of Surgery and Chairman of the Department of Surgery, Chief of General Surgery, and General Surgery Residency Program Director. Under Dr. Sheldon’s leadership, the Division of General Surgery as well as the entire Department of Surgery exhibited remarkable growth. A native of Kansas, Dr. Sheldon received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Kansas (1957) and his Doctorate in Medicine from Kansas University Medical School (1961). Dr. Sheldon’s ensuing education followed a strong family tradition in surgery, and served as excellent preparation for his subsequent leadership roles in American and international surgery. Following an internship at the Kansas University Medical Center, he spent two years in military service as a surgeon in the U.S. Coast Guard. A fellowship in internal medicine at the Mayo Clinic preceded his completion of a general surgical residency under the tutelage of Dr. J. Englebert Dunphy at the University of California at San Francisco. After fellowships at the National Institutes of Health and the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, Dr. Sheldon returned in 1971 to the University of California at San Francisco as Assistant Professor of Surgery. He achieved the rank and Professor of Surgery in 1980.

From the start of Dr. Sheldon’s chairmanship, the Department of Surgery continued to expand existing strengths and seek profitable avenues for innovative new endeavors. Several good ideas progressed from preliminary discussion stages to active and productive programs. Dr. Sheldon assessed development opportunities and recruitment needs in consultation with Dr. Thomas, Dr. Johnson, division chiefs, and other members of the Department. New faculty were recruited, and General Surgery was reorganized in keeping with new programs and Dr. Sheldon’s area of emphasis: oncology, gastrointestinal surgery, transplant surgery general and trauma surgery, surgical critical care, pediatric surgery, informatics, and surgical education.

As Chairman and Chairman Emeritus, Dr. Sheldon established himself as one of the surgical leaders of his generation, serving as president/chair of all of the major surgical organizations, including the American College of Surgeons, the American Surgical Association, the American Association for the Surgery of Trauma, and the American Board of Surgery. He was a Charter Member of the Council on Graduate Medical Education (COGME) when it was founded in 1985 under the Department of Health and Human Services. Many of these accomplishments are enumerated in the tribute to Dr. Sheldon published in the American Journal of Surgery in January 2003.

Dr. Sheldon has since passed, but had an active career as a respected surgical consultant and Professor Surgery and Social Medicine even in his later years. He was a member of the Faculty Council of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the Faculty Assembly of the University of North Carolina system. He also held the position of Editor-in-Chief of, the web portal of the American College of Surgeons, as well as Director of the Health Policy Institute of the American College of Surgeons.


Reference: Kagarise, MJ, Thomas, Colin CG. LEGENDS AND LEGACIES - A Look Inside Four Decades of Surgery at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Department of Surgery, Chapel Hill, NC. February 1997.