August 06, 2013
Riya V. Anandwala

James Eugene Lewis Jr., M.D., 1917-2013

ST. LOUIS - James Eugene Lewis Jr., M.D., clinical professor emeritus of pediatric surgery at Saint Louis University and former chief of pediatric surgery at SSM Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center, passed away on July 27. He was 96.

James Lewis
James Eugene Lewis Jr., M.D., was considered a pioneer
in the field of pediatric surgery.

Lewis was considered a pioneer in the field of pediatric surgery. He was born in Mountain Grove, a small town in southern Missouri, completed his associate's and bachelor's of science degrees at University of Missouri - Columbia and received his medical degree from Harvard University.

Lewis cut short his residency to serve in the World War II as an army surgeon - in a Mobile Evacuation Hospital in the European Theatre of Operations, including Normandy, Market-Garden and the Battle of the Bulge - and also helped set up a post-operative intensive care unit. After the war, he was assigned to the White House, where he worked as an assistant physician to President Harry S Truman.

"Eugene Lewis was a warm and caring person. He was a good guy with old school values, and great with patients and their families," said Andrew Fiore, M.D., professor of surgery at Saint Louis University and one of Lewis' students at SLU School of Medicine. "He was a great surgeon technically. I was in his pediatric surgery class. His book, Atlas of Infant Surgery, is one of the classic books published on pediatric surgery at the time."

Fiore fondly remembers the time Lewis and he spent together at several dinners and when Lewis would visit Cardinal Glennon to watch his former students operate.

The World War II veteran could hold his own long after military years. Fiore recalls an incident that would leave more 90-plus year olds quaking in their boots.

About five years ago, Fiore took Lewis out for dinner to a local restaurant. Fiore was dressed in a tie and suit, Lewis was in his usual attire: bow-tie and suit, but this time, with a cane.

"When we came out of the restaurant, I walked to my car and a man came over and put a gun on my forehead. I started fighting him and he went away. Later I saw he was running toward Dr. Lewis," said Fiore. "Dr. Lewis started beating him up with his cane. I got into the car, drove over to Dr. Lewis and asked him to jump in and we drove away."

Fiore said Lewis led a very charmed life.

"He was an interesting man, with an interesting life," he said.

At Saint Louis University, Lewis started out as an assistant professor of surgery and held several academic titles in the division pediatric surgery until 1988. From 1967-1973 he was the director of the Birth Defect Center at SSM Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center. He served on committees of The St. Louis Medical Society and American Pediatric Surgical Association, and was a member of more than 15 medical associations.

Dennis Vane, M.D., professor and chair of pediatric surgery at Saint Louis University, currently holds J. Eugene Lewis Jr. endowed chair.

Lewis is survived by his children James E. Lewis, III (Kenna), Linda McCoy (Timothy) and Elizabeth Panke (Robert); grandchildren Rachel and Jamie Lewis, Whitney, Sean, Andrew and Lindsey McCoy, Samuel (Libby) and Beth Panke, and sister Mildred Settlage; and sister-in-law Margaret Jean McKee.

A memorial service will be held at the Church of St. Michael and St. George, 6345 Wydown Blvd, Clayton on Tuesday, Aug. 6 at 11 a.m.

KETC-TV The Nine Network, a local news channel captured J. Eugene Lewis' service in WWII. Click here to watch the video.

Established in 1836, Saint Louis University School of Medicine has the distinction of awarding the first medical degree west of the Mississippi River. The school educates physicians and biomedical scientists, conducts medical research, and provides health care on a local, national and international level. Research at the school seeks new cures and treatments in five key areas: cancer, liver disease, heart/lung disease, aging and brain disease, and infectious disease.

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