Ballinger, former head of surgery department, 85

Walter F. Ballinger II, MD, former head of the Department of Surgery at Washington University School of Medicine, died Friday, April 29, 2011, of pneumonia at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. He was 85.

Ballinger, professor emeritus of surgery, arrived at the School of Medicine in 1967 at age 42 as the Bixby Professor and head of the Department of Surgery. He also was surgeon-in-chief at Barnes Hospital. He stepped down as head of the department in 1978 and retired as a surgeon in 1991 but continued to teach in the school’s former Health Administration Program.


Timothy J. Eberlein, MD, the Bixby Professor and head of the Department of Surgery, the Spencer T. and Ann W. Olin Distinguished Professor and director of the Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine, became good friends with Ballinger. The two often had lunch together.

“He was the consummate gentleman, a very astute thinker and was a real Renaissance man,” Eberlein says. “He had a real, genuine love of Washington University and the Department of Surgery. He didn’t take sides, but was always genuinely concerned about you, much the way your grandfather would be about your career or schooling. He was a real steward of the department and took extraordinary pride in hearing about what the department was doing.”

William Peck, MD, the Alan A. and Edith L. Wolff Distinguished Professor of Medicine, director of the Center for Health Policy and former dean of the School of Medicine, said of Ballinger, “He was an outstanding surgeon, a fine scholar and a strong supporter of Washington University.”

A general surgeon, most of Ballinger’s work was in intestinal and vascular surgery, and his research interests were in the effects of surgery on the vagus nerve on the small intestine. In the mid-1970s, Ballinger and the late Paul E. Lacy, MD, a world leader in the study of the physiopathology of insulin-dependent diabetes, eliminated diabetes in a primate by transplanting insulin-producing cells called islets of Langerhans from a healthy primate pancreas.

Ballinger earned a medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania. He completed residencies at Bellevue Hospital and Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York. He was a captain in the medical corps of the U.S. Army in the early 1950s. He spent several years at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia before becoming associate professor of surgery at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, where he was a Markle Scholar.

Ballinger is survived by his wife, Mary Randolph Ballinger; three sons: Walter III, Christopher and David; grandchildren and nieces and nephews.

A memorial service will be held at noon Friday, May 6, at the Church of St. Michael and St. George, 6345 Wydown Blvd., Clayton, MO 63105. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Dr. Walter F. Ballinger Surgical Academic Education Program at Washington University, Campus Box 1247, 7425 Forsyth Blvd., Suite 2100, St. Louis, MO 63105; the Mercantile Library Association, One University Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63121; or the Mathews-Dickey Boys’ and Girls’ Club, 4245 N. Kingshighway, St. Louis, MO 63115.