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Thoralf M. Sundt

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Thoralf M. Sundt, Jr., MD, was born in Wenonah, New Jersey, April 3, 1930 to Thoralf M. Sundt, a Scandinavian contractor, and Elinor Stout Sundt, a member of an old New Jersey Scottish family of physicians and ministers. Two brothers remained in the contracting business but the middle son departed east for school.

He was graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York in June, 1952, and thereafter served with the 7th Infantry Division during the Korean War, where he rose from Platoon Leader to Company Commander and was awarded the Bronze Star for Valor with one oak leaf cluster.

He left the service in 1955, to enter medical school, and he was graduated from the University of Tennessee in Memphis, Tennessee in 1959. He trained with Francis Murphey at the Semmes-Murphey Clinic and the University of Tennessee. During this time, he did work with the operating microscope and developed the clip graft. In 1965, on the basis of that work, he was awarded an NIH Fellowship for research and collaborated with Dr. A.G. Waltz at the Mayo Clinic.

He joined the Mayo Clinic staff in Neurologic Surgery in April, 1969, was appointed Professor of Neurological Surgery in 1976, and to the endowed Vernon F. and Earline D. Dale Chair of Neurological Surgery in 1978. He became Chair of the Mayo Department of Neurologic Surgery in February 1980, serving in that capacity until June 1992. He maintained his pre-eminence as a leader in neurosurgery serving as President of the American Academy of Neurological Surgery in 1988-89 and Chairman of the Editorial Board of the Journal of Neurosurgery from 1985 to 1987. He was Editor of the Journal of Neurosurgery from 1989 and worked assiduously at this task literally until the day of his death, September 9, 1992.

Thor Sundt distinguished himself as a thorough researcher, particularly pertaining to cerebral ischemia, and applied his findings to clinical problems and treatments. His outstanding work in this area was recognized in his being awarded the Grass Prize and Medal by the Society of Neurological Surgeons in 1991. He had special interest and extensive experience with intracranial aneurysms, particularly giant aneurysms, for which he developed bold and original surgical techniques as well as new instrumentation including "booster" and high force aneurysm clips for their obliteration.

Dr. Sundt’s outstanding achievements earned him many awards and honors, among these being the Distinguished Mayo Clinician Award, Membership in the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, the Medal of Honor of the World Federation of Neurosurgical Societies, and Honored Guest of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons. Probably his most cherished award was the Distinguished Graduate Award presented to him by the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1992.

Thor is survived by his wife Lois, and three children, Laura, a CPA; Thoralf III, a cardiac transplant surgeon; and John, an attorney.

 

Thoralf M. Sundt, Jr. Fund

Purpose: To fund education and research within the Mayo Clinic Residency Program.

To view a list of all donors to this fund, click here.

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