As Editor-in-Chief, I am very happy to honor Dr. Raymond A. Dieter, an invaluable Fellow of the International College of Surgeons, in this Editorial Letter for the First Quarter 2022, Issue of International Surgery. The contributions by Dr. Raymond A. Dieter to the International College of Surgeons are many, all made in a context of spirit, dedication, and great enthusiasm for the College. Dr. Dieter continues as Chair of the Board of Directors of the International Museum of Surgical Science, a division of the International College of Surgeons, and has been Chair for 25 plus years. He continues to have a keen interest in the global International College of Surgeons offering support and giving suggestions.
Dr. Raymond A. Dieter, Jr. (1934–) first became involved with the International College of Surgeons in 1975. Dr. Dieter was the International President for the International College of Surgeons from 2003–2004. Since 1997, he has been the Director of the International Museum of Surgical Science.
Dr. Dieter was born and raised in a small town in central Illinois, Chebanse. While his family lived in the town of about 600 people running a hardware store (“Dieter's Supply”) and Culligan business, Dr. Dieter spent most of his childhood on a farm. He was active in his school and community and played sports, including baseball, football and running track.
After attending the University of Illinois, majoring in chemistry, Dr. Dieter initially pursued veterinary medicine. After one year of veterinary school at the University of Illinois, he decided to a become physician and attended Loyola University Stritch School of Medicine, 1956–1960. Following medical school, he spent a year at the Cook County Hospital in Chicago. This was a rotating internship where Dr. Dieter was afforded significant autonomy, often having several dozen patients on his service.
Following the rotating internship, Dr. Dieter spent an amazing two years in Alaska's Southeast acting as a physician and surgeon for the isolated town of Mt. Edgecumbe. During this time with the United States Public Health Service, he was in charge of the local school's health care. His future bride, Bette Myers, drove up to Alaska and they were married on September 29, 1961. Dr. and Mrs. Dieter have six children (the eldest was born in Mt. Edgecumbe), eighteen grandchildren, and one great-granddaughter.
Dr. Dieter returned to Illinois for a general surgery residency (1963–1967) followed by a fellowship in cardiovascular and thoracic surgery (1967–1969), both at Hines VA. Concurrently, Dr. Dieter earned a master's degree in physiology from the University of Illinois (1964–1966). Cardiothoracic surgery was truly in its infancy at this time and Dr. Dieter pioneered many of the operations performed today. Dr. Dieter and Dr. Denton Cooley were longtime friends and often discussed challenging cases. Later, Dr. Cooley would write the forward to each of Dr. Dieter's five vascular textbooks.
Upon completion of his fellowship, Dr. Dieter was recruited to further develop a surgical program in the western suburbs of Chicago. He continued to operate and teach at Loyola University Medical Center. Currently, Dr. Dieter is part of the Cardiovascular Translational Research Institute at Loyola and in 2018 he was recognized by Loyola “…for pioneering contributions to education…. From the very beginning of open-heart surgery...remarkable impact on heart and vascular disease…”
Dr. Dieter built a regional and international referral network for patients with complex surgical disease. He operated on patients, literally from every continent in the world, aside from Antarctica. An underlying principle for Dr. Dieter was the ability to “think like an internist” and “keep it simple.” This provided the lens to see patients in their entirety rather than purely as a surgical condition and operate in an extremely efficient and deliberate manner. In an average day, Dr. Dieter could perform an angiogram, bronchoscopy, pediatric hernia, and open-heart surgery. In one 24-hour period of time, he operated on five ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysms. He continues to work at a free clinic and actively participates in Loyola's conferences on vascular surgery, cardiology, and oncology.
Along with a busy practice, Dr. Dieter has been active academically, co-authoring over 90 manuscripts, 6 medical textbooks (and a dozen historical texts), contributing 37 book chapters (an additional 8 non-medical book chapters), presenting over 160 papers at medical meetings, and directing 16 conferences/courses. He is currently working with projects to design a microarray for diaphragmatic stimulation for patients with phrenic nerve injury, methods to improve neuronal recovery following transection, and vagal nerve stimulation to improve outcomes in patients with heart failure. He recently taught anatomy at Loyola Stritch School of Medicine as well as for the undergraduates at Olivet Nazarene University.
His ability to run a busy surgical practice, have a high level of community involvement, medical society involvement, and passion for life is a great testament to Dr. Dieter's intelligence and humility. His steadfast devotion to his wife, Bette, is inspirational for all. Dr. Dieter is the chair of the Reserve Officers Association of Illinois, started a community bank in Glen Ellyn serving on the board, managed his son's baseball teams, was the medical staff president of Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, Central DuPage Hospital in Winfield, and served as the chair of the Department of Surgery at the Glen Ellyn Clinic where he was also the president of the Board of Directors. He designed and started two free standing outpatient surgical care centers. Additionally, he was the president of the Illinois Hospital Medical Staff of the American Medical Association, served on the Cardiopulmonary Committee for the American Heart Association, served for the Illinois State Medical Society, Illinois State Thoracic Surgical Society, DuPage County Medical Society, and countless other community and medical contributions.
Growing up in rural America meant being involved in the 4-H Club where he would show rabbits and other animals at the county and state fair. This was carried on with his children. At times, they raised over 50 rabbits along with sheep, chickens, pheasants, pigeons, doves, ferrets, and other animals that were cared for in their backyard in Glen Ellyn and eventually won several awards at the DuPage County Fair.
The outdoors have always been a passion. He has maintained a garden for nearly all of his life and for the past thirty five years has run a 160-acre farm about an hour and half south of his Glen Ellyn, Illinois home. Dr. Dieter is an avid hunter, enjoying pheasant, rabbit, deer, bear, and big game hunting. He has sheep hunted some of the most arduous slopes in Alaska with the world-famous pilot, Don Sheldon and guide, Ray Genet. This passion for outdoors has cultivated into a “Grandpa's Camp” for his grandchildren. During these summer camps, Dr. Dieter takes his grandchildren on various field trips to learn about fishing, history, arrowheads, shooting, berry picking, along with other activities which typically end with ice cream or lemonade. Dr. Dieter is a loving and caring father to his six children, grandfather to his 18 grandchildren, and a great-grandfather.
During his World Presidency from 2003–2004, a meeting of the International Executive Council occurred in Germany. When it was time for him to give his report to the Committee, he announced that his report would be very brief, in fact, one word. He then spoke the word “ENTHUSIASM”. His report was warmly received.
As World President of the International College of Surgeons, he actively concerned himself with not only the short-term operations, but also the longer-term issues of the College. Dr. Dieter would have many discussions going late into the night with Executive Director Max Downham, then take him to the train station to catch the last train to the suburbs.
During his World Presidency, Dr. Dieter became aware of the value of a World President traveling to the various ICS Sections around the world and, as a result, he traveled extensively to visit numerous ICS Sections. Without expense to the College, he visited dozens of countries to personally meet with the delegations. Dr. Dieter is known for his sincere and enthusiastic interest in the College.
The involvement with the International Museum of Surgical Sciences began in 1975. During this time, Dr. Dieter and his wife became good friends with Chuck Walgreen, Jr. During the course of this friendship, they enjoyed visits to Dr. Dieter's farm as well as christening Mr. Walgreen's yacht in Wisconsin and later celebrating Mr. Walgreen's birthday on his yacht in Florida. Mr. Walgreen was one of many special individuals that Dr. Dieter became friends through the International College of Surgeons. Others include longtime friend, Max Downham, presidents of many countries, the Crown Prince of Japan, the Prime Minister of Korea, US Senators and Congressman, and dignitaries from many other countries. Notably, these relationships were developed on a mutual respect for each other without any expectations aside from friendship and worker together for passionate causes. Dr. Dieter was able to operate internationally and also on dignitaries from around the world. Alongside the International College of Surgeons, he has worked closely with the World Health Organization to help draft recommendations for a safer and healthier world.
Dr. Raymond A Dieter, Jr. lives a life of hard work, humility, and passion. Truly, a modern Renaissance Man, he brings enthusiasm for life and helping others.
I close this inaugural editorial letter by celebrating the invaluable leaders in the International College of Surgeons and plan to feature such individuals on a periodic basis.
Professor Christopher Chen