Philadelphia Reflections

The musings of a physician who has served the community for over six decades

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Philadelphia dominated the medical profession so long that it's hard to distinguish between local traditions and national ones. The distinctive feature is that in Philadelphia you must be a real doctor before you become a mere specialist.

Right Angle Club 2009
The 2009 proceedings of the Right Angle Club of Philadelphia, beginning with the farewell address of the outgoing president, John W. Nixon, and sadly concluding with memorials to two departed members, Fred Etherington and Harry Bishop.

Harry C. Bishop 1921-2009

{Harry C. Bishop}
Harry C. Bishop

Harry C. Bishop, M.D., a pediatric surgeon known throughout the medical world, died suddenly of heart failure at his home in Haverford on May 9, 2009, at the age of 88. He was one of the originators of the specialty of pediatric surgery and pioneered many techniques for operating on newborns and very small children.

After graduating from Dartmouth in 1943 and thereafter from the Harvard Medical School and serving as a major in the U.S. Army Medical Corps in Wyoming and Kansas, he completed several surgical residencies. In 1954 he came to Philadelphia from Boston's Children's Hospital to join C. Everett Koop, M.D. at Philadelphia Children's Hospital. Over the years, Dr. Koop and Harry partnered in the development of new techniques to correct potentially fatal abnormalities in newborns. In retrospect, Harry estimated that he had operated on over 9,000 children. He was Professor of Surgery at the University of Pennsylvania and the author of 78 publications. His reputation was worldwide, and he lectured in many countries, being elected to the British Pediatric Society and the German Pediatric Society.

After retirement, Harry joined the Right Angle Club and served on the Board of Control until 2008. He greatly enjoyed the Friday luncheons at the Racquet Club as well as the special holiday events throughout the year at the Union League, the Downtown Club, the Corinthian Yacht Club, and the trip to the battleship New Jersey, among others. Having spent his professional career engrossed in medicine, he particularly appreciated the insights he gained from the varied topics of discussion stimulated by the speakers and subsequently in conversations with fellow members of diverse backgrounds and activities.

Harry was in every sense a family man, devoted to his wife, the former Deborah Dilworth Newbold, and liked nothing better than spending time with his daughter, two sons, brother, and sister, often in boats or ships.

Sailing was one of Harry's greatest pleasures. As long as he was on the water, he was happy to be on all kinds of vessels, yachts or commercial cruise ships. He went on many cruises and was the joint owner of yachts in the Chesapeake and the Caribbean, the Caribbean yacht appropriately christened "Heaven." The cool and calm demeanor that he was known for in the operating room was reflected in his capacity as Captain no matter what the weather, which endeared him to his many friends who served as crew.

A kind and thoughtful man of many interests, Harry was always engaged in one or more continuing "projects," from fashioning boat models to repairing screens at my summer camp in Maine. He was a skilled electrician as well as a plumber, as some of us have gratefully learned in emergencies of sorts at one time or another.

All of us who have had the rewarding pleasure of Harry's company will greatly miss his sense of humor and friendly interest in the companionship of friends in the Right Angle Club.

Dick Palmer

Originally published: Sunday, December 13, 2009; most-recently modified: Tuesday, May 21, 2019

I will celebrate my 46th Birthday on Saturday thanks to the capable hands and gentle manner of Dr. Harry Bishop. Thank you!
Posted by: Scott McBride   |   Nov 1, 2016 3:10 AM
My daughter Maria will celebrate her 35th birthday this year thanks to Dr. Bishop and CHOP. Mr. Palmer your article is spot on in your assessment of Dr. Bishop's bedside manner. I, too, think it was a miracle that my daughter, born with esophageal atresia, was placed in Dr. Bishop's capable hands. Thank you again Mr. Palmer for this article on a lovely man whose spirit goes on in the lives of his patients, family and friends.
Posted by: Jeanne Karman   |   Mar 2, 2015 1:10 AM
What an amazing individual that Harry Bishop.
I am sad to learn only today (6/12/2012) of Dr. Bishop's death. He saved our son, Kevin. Kevin was only a few hours old when he was rushed from the Naval Hospital to Children's and there Susan and I met Dr. Bishop. You are a saint in our eyes. Thank you. Kevin is an attorney today.
Posted by: Brian and Susan Ellis   |   Jun 12, 2012 4:43 PM
Dr. Bishop saved my daughter's life with his operation on tiny Lisa for trachea esophogeal fistula and atresia at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. We just celebrated my healthy daughter's 50th birthday. Our family has always been so grateful. Such a surgery seemed to my husband and me age age 22 seemed a miracle. It still does. Belated sympathy to his family. I was very glad to run across this article. Thank yo for it, Mr. Palmer.
Posted by: Martha Schuetz Bjorkman   |   Jan 2, 2012 3:04 PM
Dr. Bishop was an amazing human being and surgeon. I will always remember him and his wonderful, positive attitude and helpful advice after having multiple surgeries that helped me get over a physical deformation in my early teens. Sorry to hear the news and god bless his family!
Posted by: Connie Parrotto   |   Aug 17, 2011 8:47 AM
I do not remember him well, but I can tell you that this man saved my life. I think of him often and always wanted to write him a thank you note. If there is any way to put me in touch with his family I would truley be grateful. This is very sad news to me.
Posted by: Tegan McEnerney   |   Jan 14, 2010 2:32 PM