Columbians Ahead of Their Time
 Virginia Kneeland Frantz
Virginia Kneeland Frantz "If you go into medicine with stardust in your eyes you will be quickly disillusioned. But, if you are crazy enough to be determined to do it. . . the rewards are enormous."

Virginia Kneeland Frantz (1896–1967)
Surgical Pathologist
MD 1922
Faculty 1924-62

In her long career, Virginia Kneeland Frantz won renown as an instructor, author, and researcher in surgery and disease. Along with A.P. Stout, W.C. Clarke and, later, Raffaele Lattes, she led the field of surgical pathology. Frantz did notable early work in cancer and cystic disease of the breast and made an important discovery in the diagnosis and treatment of thyroid cancer. With A.O. Whipple, she made pioneering studies of the surgical pathology of insulin-secreting pancreatic tumors. During World War II, Frantz and Lattes developed oxidized cellulose, a hemostatic absorbable gauze that aided wound healing, for which she won an Army-Navy Certificate of Appreciation for Civilian Service.

Frantz graduated second in the P&S class of 1922, one of only five women out of 74 students. She then became the first woman appointed a surgical intern at Presbyterian Hospital. At the time, surgery was an unheard-of career for a woman. The rigors of raising a family and the advice of her seniors convinced her to eschew a career as a clinical surgeon. She became instead an outstanding teacher and investigator. For 38 years, she taught second-year surgery at P&S, emphasizing the healing of wounds. From that course arose her textbook, Introduction to Surgery, now in its fourth edition. Around 1924 she launched the new field of surgical pathology, working with Stout, Clarke, and Lattes. After her death in 1967, the board of Presbyterian Hospital recognized her in a tribute: "Her individual attention to the evaluation of each student was a model and a stimulus to the succession of younger instructors whom she taught to teach in the second-year course. Her searching, yet humorous questions deflated cant and didactic presumption, and constantly challenged her students to replace rote memory with constructive and critical thought."

Adapted from "Faculty Remembered" by Nicholas P. Christy MD 1951 (P&S Journal, Spring 1995)


Commemorative issue of P&S Journal


Columbia University Department of Surgery

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