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Roscoe Reid Graham and Support of Surgical Science

James Rutka
James Rutka

In 1959, Mrs. Beatrice Graham established the Roscoe Reid Graham Scholarship in Surgical Science in the Department of Surgery in memory of her late husband, Dr. Roscoe Reid Graham. Over the years, funds from this scholarship have enabled us to support the academic activities of promising young faculty members within the first five years of their appointments. Most recently, this scholarship is being used to support the careers of Dr. Marcelo Cypel in the Division of Thoracic Surgery, and Dr. Paul Karanicolas in the Division of General Surgery, both of whom are performing at superior levels in the research they are conducting. But who was Roscoe Reid Graham? And why was the Department of Surgery selected for this endowment fund?

Roscoe Reid Graham was born in Lobo Ontario on January 2, 1890. He went to high school at London Collegiate Institute in London, Ontario, before going to medical school at the University of Toronto where he graduated in 1910. He did an internship at St Michael’s Hospital in 1912-13. Following time spent at St. Bartholomew’s in London, United Kingdom, he returned to Toronto and became a staff surgeon at the Toronto General Hospital, and ultimately the first Division Head of General Surgery. One of his early remarkable achievements in surgery was to recognize and successfully remove an insulinoma from the pancreas in 1929. In 1932, Dr. Graham became a fellow of the American Surgical Association (ASA). In 1937, he published his highly cited work on the treatment of perforated duodenal ulcers using an omental patch in Surgery, Gynecology and Obstetrics to great acclaim.

medical illustration

Roscoe Reid Graham patch

© Reprinted with permission of The Society of Laparoendoscopic Surgeons: Lagoo, Sandhya et al. “The Sixth Decision Regarding Perforated Duodenal Ulcer.” JSLS : Journal of the Society of Laparoendoscopic Surgeons 6.4 (2002): 359–368.

In 1939, Dr. Graham became Vice President of the ASA with Dr. Allen Whipple as Chair. Other major achievements include his working as editor of Annals of Surgery, and writing the definitive work on operative repair of massive rectal prolapse. Sadly, Dr. Graham died unexpectedly during a skiing vacation in Canada from acute coronary thrombosis. For those of you wishing to learn more about Dr. Graham, I refer you to two timely articles on his life and career (1, 2).


Roscoe Reid Graham

The Grahams’ children, Mary Allen and R. Barry Graham, were co-trustees of the scholarship fund until their passing in 2008. Mary Allen’s daughter Liz Rankin (Roscoe Graham’s granddaughter) and her cousin Anne McTaggart are now the co-trustees of the foundation. Recently, they provided the Department of Surgery with a fine portrait of Dr. Graham during his professional career. We have now framed this portrait, and it hangs proudly in the Department of Surgery office with the following inscription: Dr. Roscoe Reid Graham, 1890- 1948, University of Toronto Pioneer in General Surgery. I invite all of you to come view this portrait of one of our outstanding faculty members whose life continues to influence and shape the careers of our surgeons.

James T Rutka,
RS McLaughlin Chair, Department of Surgery



1. Piper CC, Yeo CJ, Cowan SW, Roscoe Reid Graham (1890-1948): A Canadian Pioneer in General Surgery. Am Surg 2014; 80: 431-3

2. De la Fuente SG, Pappas TN, Roscoe Reid Graham (1890-1948): The Man of the Patch. Curr Surg 2002; 28: 347-9

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