Dr. Edward C. Raffensperger, professor emeritus of medicine, passed away October 2, 2009. He was 95 years old.
Dr. Raffensperger received a BS from Dickinson College in 1936 and an MD from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in 1940. He completed his residency at the Graduate Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania after which he served in the Air Force in WWII as a flight surgeon. He rose to the rank of Lt. Captain. He returned from the war to do his fellowship in gastroenterology at the Graduate Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania with Dr. Henry Bockus whom many consider to be the father of clinical gastroenterology. He then set up a practice at the Polyclinic in Harrisburg from 1948-1962 but was then recruited back to serve as the lead clinical gastroenterologist at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, where he remained.
In his tenure at Penn, Dr. Raffensperger held many positions. He was chairman of the medical board and the school admissions committee and served on numerous other committees. He rose to the rank of full professor and became emeritus in 1985. He received many awards over the years including the Distinguished Alumni Award at Dickinson College where he also served as a Trustee since 1958 and was a benefactor.
As a philanthropist, he along with his wife, Mary Ames Raffensperger (now deceased, Almanac July 12, 1983) who was a pioneer in rehabilitative medicine at the Childrenís Hospital of Philadelphia, established a generous fund in that area at CHOP. At Penn, he established an endowment for educational funding of medical students. According to Dr. David Katzka, gastroenterologist and professor of medicine, "Dr. Raffensperger commonly quoted his mother who when asked by a young Ed, 'what would you do if you had a million dollars,' she gleefully replied, 'I'd give it away.' Clearly, he was greatly influenced by her advice."
"Dr. Raffensperger was a great teacher. Students, residents and fellows always competed to be on his rotations. He trained several generations of gastroenterologists, many of whom went on to national and international fame. Dr. Raffensperger was warm and caring, yet a taskmaster at the same time, demanding clinical excellence and integrity from all he trained," said Dr. Katzka. For many years, he was the gastroenterologist for Philadelphia's elite and Pennís faculty. There is a yearly conference at Penn in his name in which some of the most difficult cases from medical schools in the Delaware Valley are presented and discussed. Dr. Raffensperger lost his wife, Mary, to cancer in 1983. He is survived by generations of friends, students, colleagues and patients. A memorial service will be held at Penn, details to be determined. Contributions may be made to the Mary Ames Raffensperger and Edward Cowell Raffensperger Scholarship Fund at the University of Pennsylvania or to Dickinson College.