William W. Krippaehne, M.D. Lectureship

History of William W. Krippaehne, M.D.

The Early Years

William W. Krippaehne, M.D. in his office at Mackenzie HallRooted in the Pacific Northwest, William Wonn Krippaehne was born November 3, 1917 in the thriving gold mining town of Douglas, Alaska, located a few miles south of Juneau. His father was a gold mining engineer, and his mother a nurse. By the time William was four years old the gold mine had closed, and the family moved to Puyallup, Washington. As a boy, William acquired a love for fishing that remained a source of recreation and relaxation for the remainder of his life. He showed early skill with his hands, and learned machine tooling. When he started at the University of Washington he was an engineering student. During college he worked at Boeing Industries in Seattle where he, despite only being in his early 20’s, demonstrated his leadership skills, and was appointed to head a group of 50 men who were tooling the first production model of the B-17 bomber. Although successful as an engineering student, William Krippaehne was attracted to zoology, the study of which led him into teaching. He reported 15 years later that “I have always been interested in academic work, having taught Zoology Laboratories at the University of Washington.” While in his junior year at the University of Washington he decided to become a physician, and one day during his senior year at the University of Washington he drove down to Portland, successfully interviewed and started what would be a 40-year relationship with the University of Oregon’s Medical School.

“There were mornings when he and the other nascent military medical officers would march in their uniforms behind Mackenzie Hall.”

William Krippaehne (center) as an Intern in 1946William Krippaehne graduated from the University of Washington in 1943, the middle of the Second World War, and like most of his generation was inducted into the Army. Thus he entered the Pacific Northwest’s only medical school, the University of Oregon, as an army enrollee. There were mornings when he and the other nascent military medical officers would march in their uniforms behind Mackenzie Hall. With the war, there was a three year accelerated medical school curriculum, and he graduated in June 1946. Following graduation he was appointed an intern at the University of Oregon Medical School & Clinics working at the Multnomah County Hospital.

“He was the only doctor for 7,000 soldiers and dependents.”

In the summer of 1947, as the 30-year-old William Krippaehne, M.D. completed his internship, he was commissioned as Lieutenant in the U.S. Army. For the only time in his professional life, he left Oregon. For eighteen months he was a battalion surgeon assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 6th Armored Cavalry garrisoned in occupied Germany at Degerndorf, close to the Austrian border. He was the only doctor for 7,000 soldiers and dependents. With a promotion to Captain in the last six months of his military service, he was transferred to the 250th Medical Station Hospital and was more involved in surgery. His service in the Army ended in the summer of 1949 as tensions eased from confrontation with the Soviets during the time of the Berlin Airlift.

From Student to Chairman

Marion Krippaehne, wife of William KrippaehneDr. Krippaehne returned to the University of Oregon Medical School in July 1949 and applied for a surgery training position under Chairman of Surgery Dr. W.K. Livingston. Dr. Livingston was the first “full time” chairman of surgery at Oregon, appointed in 1948, although some would describe him as a “desk surgeon.” For the next four years Dr. Krippaehne learned the art and science of surgery working in the hospitals and clinics located on the hill overlooking Portland. An important event during those years was William Krippaehne’s marriage on November 19, 1949 to Dr. Marion C. Larsen, a graduate of the University of Oregon Medical School in 1948. Dr. M. Krippaehne was a pioneer in her own right, pursing a medical career at the University of Oregon in experimental medicine (hematology) and then practicing internal medicine until she retired as full Professor in 1988. Throughout the Krippaehne’s marriage they lived in homes close to the University Hospitals where they both worked, and raised seven children, all of whom went on to complete post-graduate levels of education in diverse fields.

In June 1953, Dr. Krippaehne completed his residency. He had acquired an interest in oncology, and he hoped to move to New York and study at Memorial Hospital for Cancer and Allied Diseases. However, Dr. Livingston convinced him to remain and join the faculty as an Instructor in Surgery. In 1955 he was promoted to Assistant Professor. In the winter of 1958, Dr. J. Englebert Dunphy, a Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School, was convinced to accept the position of Chairman of Surgery by Dean David W.E. Baird, M.D. Dr. Dunphy requested from the faculty a letter describing their “present activities and plans for future activities.” Dr. Krippaehne wrote to Dr. Dunphy, who was still in Boston, “During the last five years my knowledge and experience in surgery has broadened through close work in a 75-bed surgical ward. Insight and administration and its problems have been learned and experience gained as a result of tutoring by Dr. Livingston and Dr. Peterson (the interim chair of surgery after an illness compelled Dr. Livingston to step down) and by their willingness to pass on a part of their load. Teaching experience has been gained by instructing freshman and sophomores during Dr. Livingston's illness and currently by teaching junior and senior courses."

"Dr. Paxton reported that when Dr. Dunphy was asked who ran the Department in his absence he responded, 'Why Bill Krippaehne, the same fellow who runs it when I am in town!'"

Chairman Dunphy not only retained Dr. Krippaehne on the faculty but soon depended upon him. Dr. Harold Paxton, the Chief of the Division of Neurosurgery within the Department of Surgery from 1967 to 1991, recalled that Dr. Dunphy was frequently away from Oregon during his tenure as chairman attending to national surgical business, including year-long events related to his appointment in 1964 as the President of the American College of Surgeons. Dr. Paxton reported that when Dr. Dunphy was asked who ran the Department in his absence he responded "Why Bill Krippaehne, the same fellow who runs it when I am in town!" After five years as chairman, Dr. Dunphy left Oregon to become chairman at the University of California, San Francisco. Dr. Dunphy recommended to Dean Baird that Dr. Krippaehne be appointed Acting Head of the Department of Surgery. Within one year Dr. Krippaehne was promoted to full Professor, and appointed Chairman on July 15, 1964, a position he held for 20 years. Thus, within 11 years of joining the faculty Dr. Krippaehne had risen to the position of the Kenneth A. J. Mackenzie Professor and Chairman of Surgery.

The Art of Establishing the Diagnosis

Dr. Krippaehne loved to teach. One observer described him as an “indefatigable teacher,” delivering countless lectures to students. The graduating medical student class three times, in 1961, 1965 and 1971, voted Dr. Krippaehne the recipient of the Allan J. Hill, Jr. Teaching Award. Dr. Krippaehne’s principal goal was to inculcate students and residents with not only the skills of accurately evaluating a patient, but also with the intellectual rigor that enabled them to organize a rational list of differential diagnoses. One reason many of his trainees recall Dr. Krippaehne as an extraordinary teacher was that he communicated to the student a shared interest in learning. No one recalls Dr. Krippaehne ever being dismissive or derogatory with a student or resident. Those who learned from Dr. Krippaehne had the sense he was a teacher striving to help them to learn. He made it clear the importance of their mutual educational endeavor was that it directly determined the trainee’s capacity to care for patients. For many of the surgeons trained by Dr. Krippaehne it was his steadfast teaching at the bedside and patient guidance in the operating room that had the greatest influence on their professional development.

"The hallmark of Dr. Krippaehne as a teacher was his morning rounds."

Dr. William Krippaehne with Dr. Stanley Jacob leading rounds on the surgical ward of Multnomah Hospital in the early 1960'sStudents and residents attended his early morning teaching conference for over thirty years and learned by his demonstration the art of establishing the diagnosis. Dr. Krippaehne's teaching rounds occurred every weekday on one of the surgery wards in Multnomah County Hospital or University Hospital. Dr. Krippaehne would arrive at 7 a.m., and the surgery team, under the direction of the Chief Resident, would present a case to the Professor. Facing the serious and fully attentive Dr. Krippaehne, the student or junior resident would present a patient he or she currently was treating, summarizing the medical history and findings upon physical examination. Dr. Krippaehne would often visit the bedside where, through questions or observations, the Professor's gentle reassuring manner would regularly lead to the patient providing additional pertinent information that had been missed by the surgical team. Teaching rounds would culminate with Dr. Krippaehne at the chalk board recording the team's list, in order of probability, of differential diagnoses. He would say: "Now if what you have reported is correct then the diagnosis should be..." Dr. Krippaehne was a master diagnostician. Dr. Robert DuPriest (chief resident, 1974-75) recalls that at these one hour morning rounds, "Dr. Krippaehne assumed that you knew the surgical literature. What he really cared about was how one reasoned, how you solved clinical problems in a rationale manner." These morning rounds were identified by many of his residents as fundamental in preparation for their careers.

Leading with a 20-Year Vision

Dr. William Krippaehne smiling outside Mackenzie HallDr. Krippaehne considered training surgeons as his most important educational endeavor. He was universally respected and in many cases beloved by the residents because they knew he cared about them and he wanted them optimally prepared to accomplish the careers they chose. Dr. Krippaehne was not the type of surgical professor who tried to mold and direct his trainees along a prescribed career pathway. Instead, Dr. Krippaehne inspired many of the surgery residents and played a pivotal role in helping them select their careers. He was invariably polite, plainly fair and genuinely respectful with the residents. Dr. Quentin MacManus (chief resident, 1977-78) recalls Dr. Krippaehne as, "A kind, engaging and compassionate man, patient with students and residents, and remarkably humble despite being one of the smartest men I have ever known."

Dr. Krippaehne's influence on education at Oregon's Medical School was more than as a teacher; he was a leader in modifying the curriculum for medical students. As Chairman of the Curriculum Committee in the first half of the 1970's, Dr. Krippaehne was instrumental in the transition of medical student education from the old method of teaching, which linked individual topics to various Departments (i.e. biochemistry, pharmacology), to a new method that taught students to understand pathologies as they relate to organ systems. This transition was contentious, but Dr. Krippaehne's prestigious vision and steady leadership enabled consensus to be achieved among the faculty and the innovative curriculum implemented. Dr. Krippaehne's contribution to the transition of the curriculum at that time was seen as an enormous achievement;in a letter to Dr. Krippaehne dated July 13, 1977, Dr. Robert Stone expressed his sincere appreciation for Dr. Krippaehne who has been "instrumental in guiding the Curriculum Committee through the most recent major change that has operated very successfully." Dr. Krippaehne was not only a great teacher who could inspire with his individual attention to a single student, he was a visionary in preparing medical students for the rapidly changing practice of medicine he saw in their future. 

Dr. Krippaehne made substantial contributions to the training of surgeons in Oregon, not only in his daily interactions with the residents, but also as a Chairman in marshalling a sustained effort over 20 years to foster the Department's growth. He was successful at recruitment and retention of an outstanding surgical faculty. Two of the major recruitments that occurred during his tenure as Chairman were, 1) the recruitment in 1967 of Dr. John Campbell, a fully trained Pediatric Surgeon, who as the Chief of Pediatric Surgery helped establish within the Doernbecher Children's Hospital a fully implemented tertiary care pediatric facility including a pediatric oncology program; and 2) the recruitment of Dr. John Porter who established a Division of Vascular Surgery in the Department of Surgery at Oregon that achieved a worldwide reputation for outstanding clinical research.

In addition to the recruitment of pivotal faculty, he worked to guide the Department of Surgery in the 1970's toward integration of the two independent surgical residencies in Portland at Good Samaritan and St. Vincent Hospitals into the University of Oregon's residency, thereby enhancing the residency program and broadening the educational opportunity of the residents at the University. Dr. Krippaehne was a leader in the training of surgeons because he assiduously husbanded the resources and opportunities to enable the residents to acquire the skills and experiences needed to be successful surgeons. He was a leader as Chairman of the Department because he believed in allowing others to develop their own careers. In the words of his wife Marion, "He trusted people he respected. And in turn, he allowed them a lot of leash to do what they felt needed to be done. And I don't think he made too many mistakes."

"He trusted people he respected. And in turn, he allowed them a lot of leash to do what they felt needed to be done. And I don't think he made too many mistakes." - Dr. Marion C. Krippaehne

This year's William Krippaehne Lecturer

PJ Schenarts, M.D.Monday, November 19, 2018 | 7:30 - 8:30 a.m. | OHSU Auditorium

"The Education of the Modern Learner"

P.J. Schenarts, M.D., F.A.C.S.

Professor of Surgery and Vice Chairman for Academic Affairs
Chief of Trauma, Surgical Critical Care and Emergency General Surgery
Department of Surgery
University of Nebraska, College of Medicine
Omaha, Nebraska

A native of Connecticut, P.J. Schenarts, M.D., F.A.C.S. graduated Summa Cum Laude from Fordham University and received his medical degree from the University of Connecticut, where he also completed a post-sophomore fellowship anatomic pathology. He was also elected into medical honor society, Alpha Omega Alpha. Dr. Schenarts completed his general surgery residency at Maine Medical Center, during which he also completed a two-year NIH trauma research fellowship in the Investigational Intensive Care Unit at the University of Texas Medical Branch. After residency he completed a trauma &surgical critical care fellowship at Vanderbilt University, after which he served as co-medical director of Vanderbilt Life Flight. He was then recruited to East Carolina University, School of Medicine, where he spent the next 12 years. While at East Carolina, Dr. Schenarts served as Director of the General Surgery Residency, Assistant Dean for Clinical Academic Affairs and Director of the Surgery Clerkship.

Dr. Schenarts is a nationally known surgical educator and has won numerous teaching awards, including the University Board of Governors Award as one of the best teachers within the entire UNC system of 17 colleges and universities. He was also the recipient of the Master Educator Award, the Jones Award for Excellence in Teaching, The Best Clinical Educator Award and also received the National Outstanding Teacher Award from the Association for Surgical Education. Similarly, his research interests are focused on surgical education and leadership.

In addition to his academic and clinical pursuits, Dr. Schenarts was Colonel in the U.S. Army Medical Corp and has served four deployments in Afghanistan and two in Iraq. He has served as commander of Forward Surgical Teams and Chief of Surgery at Combat Support Hospitals. He has also been awarded the Bronze Star and the Meritorious Service Medals for his actions in Afghanistan.

In July 2012, he assumed the role of Chief of Trauma, Surgical Critical Care, &Emergency Surgery at the University of Nebraska, College of Medicine. He also serves as the Physician Medical Director for the City of Omaha Fire Department.

Previous William Krippaehne Lecturers

2018 | P.J. Schenarts, M.D., F.A.C.S., University of Nebraska College of Medicine | "The Education of the Modern Learner"

2017 | Jo Buyske, M.D., American Board of Surgery | "With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility: Impacting Surgical Education both Locally and Nationally"

2016 | Rebecca M. Minter, M.D., UT Southwestern Medical Center | "Would I Trust You to Do My Whipple? Progressive Entrustment and Entrustability in the Operating Room"

2015 | Timothy C. Flynn, M.D., F.A.C.S., University of Florida College of Medicine | "Surgeon: What Kind of Job is That?"

2014 | Hilary A. Sanfey, M.B., B.Ch., F.A.C.S., Southern Illinois University School of Medicine | "Assessment and Remediation of Operative Performance"

2013 | Thomas H. Cogbill, M.D., F.A.C.S., Gundersen Health System | "General Surgery Training - Where Are We Now and Where Are We Headed?"

2012 | Mary E. Klingensmith, M.D., Washington University School of Medicine | "Surgical Education: Current Challenges and Future Opportunities"

2011 | Sherry M. Wren, M.D., Stanford University School of Medicine | "There and Back Again: My Journey Through Surgical Education"

2010 | Steven C. Stain, M.D., Albany Medical Center | "How to Best Restructure Surgical Residency Training"

2009 | Gerald M. Fried, M.D., F.A.C.S., F.R.C.S.(C), McGill Centre for Medical Education | "Learning to Operate: From Lab Coats to Simulators to Patients"

2008 | Gary L. Dunnington, M.D., Indiana University | "Measuring Performance in Surgical Education or Bowling Without Pins?"

2007 | Gunnar Ahlberg, M.D., Ph.D. and Stig Ramel, M.D., Stockholm, Sweden | "Integrating Skills Training in Formal Surgical Education"