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Harwell Wilson
Surgical Society

Harwell Wilson


The Harwell Wilson Surgical Society (HWSS) was founded on May 19, 1973 to honor Dr. Harwell Wilson, the Chair of the Department of Surgery from 1948-1974. Today, the HWSS is dedicated to providing support for the UTHSC Department of Surgery residents including important educational research and training resources.



Each year, the Harwell Wilson Surgical Society hosts the highlight event of the academic year which includes a Scientific Symposium, a Distinguished Visiting Professor Lecture, and a banquet that celebrates the graduating Chief Residents and the accomplishments of the UTHSC Department of Surgery. 


By contributing to the Harwell Wilson Surgical Society, your donation directly impacts and enhances the educational experience of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center's Department of Surgery residents.

About Harwell Wilson

Harwell Wilson, AB, MD, FACS was born in Lincoln, Alabama on May 23, 1908. His grandfather, Dr. J. Tinsley Harrison, a rural general practitioner, influenced him greatly in his decision to enter medicine. 

Dr. Wilson received his BA in 1928 and his MD (AOA) in 1932 from Vanderbilt University. He studied under Dr. Barney Brooks and worked with Dr. Alfred Blalock in the early study of shock. Dr. Dallas B. Phemister asked Dr. Wilson to be a surgical resident at the newly created Department of Surgery at the University of Chicago.

Dr. Wilson studied for seven years, one of which was spent in research and surgical pathology. He was Chief Resident and Instructor of Surgery at the University of Chicago, 1938-1939. With the onset of World War II, Dr. Wilson joined the Vanderbilt Unit of the 300th General Hospital. He rose to Chief of Surgery of the 225th station hospital and then he became Surgical Consultant to Dr. Edward Churchill in the European Theatre. 

After the war, Dr. Wilson came to Memphis to establish his private practice. He was soon asked to assume the Chair in Surgery at the University of Tennessee College of Medicine. He directed the evolution of a one-man volunteer department to a large multi-specialty, modern University Department during 1948-1974. He was an outstanding teacher, a good administrator, and a master of tact and consideration in dealing with other physicians, families, and hospital personnel. He made many contributions to surgery, but the most important was instilling in young surgeons warmth, kindness, courtesy, and compassion in addition to surgical skills. Many of his junior faculty and residents have gone on to major academic and clinical posts. He was a critical, curious observer and a prolific writer, publishing over a hundred national articles. He was a pioneer in vascular surgery and contributed to the fields of carcinoid and carotid body tumors and colonic volvulus.

He was active in medical organizations, serving as officers in many surgical groups. He was treasurer of the American College of Surgeons (1962-1967) and president of the Southern Surgical Association, Southeastern Surgical Congress, and Society for Surgery of the Alimentary Tract. He was first vice-president of the American Surgical Association when he died. He received many honors, including the Legion of Merit in 1945 and the distinguished service award from the University of Chicago, Memphis and Shelby County Medical Society, Tennessee Medical Society, and the Southeastern Surgical Congress. However, he felt his greatest honor was the establishment of the Harwell Wilson Surgical Society in 1973 by his former residents. Dr. Wilson died at home, as was his wish, on October 10, 1977, after a long, courageous illness. 

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