Department History

The Legacy of G. W. N. Eggers, 1896-1963

A member of the Southern Surgical Association and an internationally recognized orthopedic surgeon, Dr. G. W. N. Eggers died in New York on May 2, 1963. He was in that city to attend the Centennial Celebration of the Hospital for Special Surgery as a guest of honor in recognition of his position as President of the American Orthopedic Association and for his outstanding leadership in orthopedics and traumatology.

Dr. Eggers was Professor of Orthopedic Surgery and Chief of the Division of Orthopedic Surgery at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, Texas. He had been associated with the Institution as student and teacher for some 44 years. A native of Galveston, he was born on January 28, 1896, the son of Emil E. F. Eggers and Gertrude Mensman Eggers. He received his undergraduate degree from Rice University in 1917 and enrolled in the University of Texas Medical Branch in 1919 following two years of service as a Lieutenant in the Field Artillery of the American Expeditionary Forces during World War I. After receiving his medical degree in 1923, he was an Instructor in the Department of Anatomy for a year. He interned at Charity Hospital in New Orleans in 1924-1925, and returned to the Medical Branch at Galveston as an Instructor in Surgery. In this his surgical apprenticeship, he was guided by Dr. James E. Thompson, who had founded the department, and by his successor, Dr. Albert O. Singleton. In the ensuing years, his interests turned strongly to orthopedic surgery, and in 1943 he became the first Professor of Orthopedic Surgery and Chief of the newly established Division of Orthopedic Surgery at the University of Texas Medical Branch. He was vigorous, enthusiastic and productive to the day of his death and had many commitments in academic surgery for the future.

Dr. Eggers received innumerable scholastic and professional honors during his lifetime, including election to Alpha Omega Alpha in 1922, his junior year in medical school and in 1957 to Sigma Xi for his research achievements. He was a fellow of the American College of Surgeons, a Diplomat and a former President (1960 1962) of the American Board of Orthopedic Surgery. He received international recognition for his research work, especially for his self designed orthopedic appliances. His best known invention was an internal slotted plate, universally called the "Eggers Splint." In 1949, he was presented the Robert Danis Award by the Scientific Committee of the International Society of surgery. This award was given for important work on the operative treatment of fractures. He was a past recipient of the Gold Medal Award for Scientific Value of an Exhibit on "The Influence of the Contact Compression Factor on Osteogenesis of Surgical Fractures," which was presented by the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons in Chicago.

Dr. Eggers was recognized as a lecturer and consultant. In 1954, he spent two months in Japan and Korea as an overseas consultant in orthopedic surgery for the Far East Command at the request of the Surgeon General of the United States Army. More recently, in 1962, he delivered the Packard Lecture at the University of Colorado Medical Center in Denver; the Rainbow Lecture at the University Hospitals in Cleveland, Ohio; and participated in the Georgia Medical Association Meeting at Savannah, Georgia. He had given numerous lectures in Monterey, Mexico City and Puebla, Mexico, and had been named an honorary citizen of Puebla.

His more than 60 scientific publications reflect the wide range of his knowledge and interest, although he was perhaps best known for his contributions in the field of fracture treatment and cerebral palsy. He was an associate editor of The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery and was on the editorial advisory board of the American Journal of Orthopedics.

In addition to serving as president of the American Academy for Cerebral Palsy, Dr. Eggers had held similar office in the Texas Orthopedic Association. The Texas Surgical Society, the Clinical Orthopedic Society, the Houston Orthopedic Club and the Texas Rheumatism Association. He was vice president of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgery from 1960 to 1962, and was elected president of the American Orthopedic Association in 1962. Death interrupted his term of office.

He was a member of the Texas Medical Association through the Galveston County Medical Society, of the American Medical Association, the American Association for the Surgery of Trauma, the American Association of University Professors, the American College of Surgeons, the International Society of Orthopedic Surgery and Traumatology, the Singleton Surgical Society, the Southern Medical Association, the Southern Surgical Association, the Orthopedic Research Society and the South Surgical Congress of which he was a founder member.

Throughout most of his professional life, Dr. Eggers was active in crippled children's work in Texas. It was largely through his interest and effort that funds were obtained for construction of the State Hospital for Crippled and Deformed Children at the University of Texas Medical Branch, which was completed in 1937. He was chairman of the Technical Advisory Committee of the Division of Crippled Children's Services of the Texas State Department of Health and was on the Medical Advisory Committee of the Texas Rehabilitation Center at Gonzales, Texas. He was a member of the Executive Committee and of the Board of Directors of the Texas Society for Children and had served as Chairman of the Galveston Chapter of the National Foundation and on the Board of the Galveston County Society for Crippled Children. His major contribution in the field of cerebral palsy was the hamstring transfer and patellar retinacular division, an operation which bears his name. He gave an instructional course on "Surgery in Cerebral Palsy" at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons as a regular feature for a number of years. His last major scientific work was on the subject of cystic change in the iliac acetabulum, a subject which had involved patient case studies over a period of ten years. More recently, he had also focused attention on hypermobile medial meniscus studies and on the use of the limited fusion procedure in the treatment of spondylolysis and spondylolisthesis.

Dr. Eggers was an ardent hunter and fisherman. The bays and bayous adjacent to Galveston Island gave him opportunity to study the flights of migrant game birds and their nesting habits. He knew where to find the best duck shooting in December, the choice spots for white wing doves and the most likely fishing among Gulf waters. He was well read and a tireless student of history. He had followed for years the culture of the American Indian and had recently become fascinated with the medical aspects of early Texas history; his search for material led him to Mexico and into little known references sources. This subject matter he planned to include in his presidential address for the American Orthopedic Association. In 1923, Dr. Eggers married the daughter of a Galveston general practitioner, Edith Sykes, who survives him. He had two children, a daughter, Mrs. Lloyd Roosevelt and a son, Dr. George William Nordholtz Eggers, Jr., who is Professor of Anesthesiology at the University of Missouri.

Dr. Eggers' life was one of outstanding productivity, as can be attested by the foregoing biography. But the chronology of a man's life cannot begin to connote the intrinsic meaning of that life. To his family, his students, his friends, his patients, he will be remembered for much more for his gentle whimsy, his delight in the natural wonders of field and stream, his loyalty to his colleagues and his family, his unceasing dedication to his work, his belief in the inherent dignity of man, his absolute honesty, and his persistent exploration of new ideas.

T. G. Blocker, Jr., M.D.

Reprinted from Transactions Southern Surgical Association, Volume 75, Copyright © 1964 by J. P. Lippincott Company