Dr. George Herschel Yeager, 92, surgeon and University of Maryland professor

January 08, 1998|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Dr. George Herschel Yeager, a vascular surgeon and administrator who "fixed bodies as well as hospitals," died of complications from a stroke Sunday at the University of Maryland Medical Center. He was 92 and lived in Catonsville.

Dr. Yeager's association with the University of Maryland began in medical school in 1927 and ended in 1973, when he retired as a professor of clinical surgery.

"He was a giant and one of the great figures of the University of Maryland School of Medicine," Dr. Joseph McLaughlin, a professor of surgery at UM's medical school, said yesterday.

"One of his great accomplishments was revitalizing Union Memorial both financially and intellectually. He fixed bodies as well as hospitals," he said.

Dr. Yeager also helped establish UM's Shock Trauma Center.

"He was Dr. R Adams Cowley's mentor and helped pave the way for the establishment of his shock trauma unit. He realized its potential and became a great supporter of Dr. Cowley's work," Dr. McLaughlin said.

As a surgeon and professor, Dr. Yeager oversaw major medical advancements in vascular surgery.

"I graduated from the medical school here in 1929 and finished my residency at the hospital in 1933," he told The Sun in a 1973 interview. "Removing the pancreas was unheard of then; there was very little lung surgery; no antibiotics; not any heart surgery except principally that related to trauma; vascular surgery as we know it now was nonexistent."

Dr. Yeager was director of then-University of Maryland Hospital from 1963 to 1971. After retiring as professor of clinical surgery in 1973, he was elected the first male president in Union Memorial Hospital's 119-year history. He retired again in 1975 and was immediately appointed director of Deaton Hospital until the late 1970s.

HTC Dr. Yeager was born and raised in Cumberland, graduated from the University of West Virginia in 1927 and earned a medical degree from UM in 1929.

During World War II, Dr. Yeager commanded the 42nd General Hospital -- one of four such units activated in Baltimore -- which served in Australia, the Philippines and Japan. By war's end, the unit had treated more than 50,000 patients.

He was discharged with the rank of colonel, later became an Air Force reservist and was discharged with the rank of brigadier general.

It was not uncommon for Dr. Yeager to begin surgery at 7: 30 a.m. and continue until 7 p.m. or 8 p.m. He combined this schedule with teaching, writing for numerous medical publications and serving as a consultant to the U.S. surgeon general.

He explained his devotion to his work in the 1973 article: "It's more characteristic of my generation to have the attitude of giving a lot of time. The volunteer, nonpaid, visiting doctor was once the backbone of medical schools.

"Administration is not as tiring or demanding as surgery, but it's more frustrating. You're dealing with intangibles, having to equate the needs of one individual against the needs of another, always putting the needs of the patient first."

A project that he was most proud of was the $1.5 million restoration of Davidge Hall, on the medical school campus at Lombard and Greene streets, in 1982.

Built in 1812 and modeled on the Pantheon in Rome, it was Maryland's first permanent medical school building and the oldest building in the Western Hemisphere continuously used for medical instruction.

When asked why he undertook the project, Dr. Yeager replied with characteristic brevity: "I thought it was high time."

He was instrumental in having the building listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Recently, it was selected as a National Historic Landmark.

Dr. Yeager, who formerly lived in Roland Park and Crownsville, also helped to preserve Baldwin Hall, a historic Civil War-era church in Anne Arundel County.

His professional memberships included the Society of Vascular Surgery, which he helped establish in 1947; the American College of Surgeons; American Board of Surgery; American Surgical Association; Southern Surgical Association; and American Medical Writers Association.

He had been a member of the Maryland State Medical Journal and was a former president of the Medical and Chirurgical Faculty of Maryland.

Services for Dr. Yeager will be held at 11 a.m. today at Ruck Towson Funeral Home, 1050 York Road.

A daughter, Dr. Anne S. Yeager, died in 1984.

He is survived by his wife of 62 years, the former Dorothy Stone; a son, George H. Yeager of Crownsville; a daughter, Barbara Brinton of West Palm Beach, Fla.; and five grandchildren.

Pub Date: 1/08/98

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