Celso-Ramón García, M.D.

Celso-Ramón García

Died February 1, 2004

Celso-Ramón García, the William Shippen, Jr. Emeritus Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, died on February 1, 2004, at the age of 82. Born in New York City of Spanish immigrant parents, Celso-Ramón García attended Queens College and Long Island College of Medicine (now the State University of New York, Downstate Medical Center). After a rotating internship at Norwegian Hospital in Brooklyn, he served in the United States Army, completing a tour of duty in Fairfax, Alaska. He returned to New York as a Resident in Pathology, Research Fellow, and ultimately a Resident in Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Cumberland Hospital in Brooklyn. His first academic appointment was as an Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the newly formed medical school in San Juan, Puerto Rico. In 1955, he moved to Boston to work directly with John Rock at what was then the Free Hospital for Women, and with Gregory Pincus at the Worcester Foundation. In the early '50s, along with Gregory Pincus and John Rock, he contributed significantly to the development of the oral contraceptive. He established a patient base to study the clinical effectiveness of oral contraception in Rio Piedras and Humacao in Puerto Rico, launching the very first clinical trials.

Very few of us in medicine have had a lasting impact on society worldwide. Celso García is in that category. As with most innovative advances in medicine, especially those with a potential major societal impact, the pill engendered controversy and ferment. In Massachusetts, at that time it was actually illegal to prescribe or provide contraceptives. Celso remained the pill's champion but not without a significant emotional price. At open seminars he was often referred to as a male chauvinist, and his work in Puerto Rico was considered by some as purely experimental and self-advancing. He had the facts. He knew he was right, and he would not be dissuaded.

Celso moved from Boston to the University of Pennsylvania in 1965. At Penn, he continued to make innovative contributions to the rapidly growing field of reproductive medicine and surgery. He spearheaded new approaches in the treatment of tubal disease at a time when tubal reconstruction was the only available treatment for infertile women with damaged fallopian tubes. His surgical ability was legendary. Over the years he preserved reproductive function for countless women who had been advised repeatedly that they should have hysterectomies. In the operating room, his intense loyalty to his patients and their welfare was evident minute by minute as he uncompromisingly brought tissues together with delicacy and precision. He was elected to the American Gynecological Society in 1978. His qualifying paper was on the surgical treatment of endometriosis in which he provided convincing evidence that surgical management was often effective.

Largely in recognition of Celso's stature and contributions to contraception, Penn was presented with an endowment for the William Shippen, Jr. Professorship, which Celso held until his retirement as Emeritus Professor. In 1995, Penn established the Celso-Ramón García Endowed Professorship in Reproductive Biology. In the Center for Reproductive Medicine and Surgery of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, a Celso-Ramón García Conference Room was recently named in his honor. It contains a portrait of Celso, stethoscope in hand, the consummate physician. The State University of New York, Downstate Medical Center presented him with its Master Teaching Award in Obstetrics and Gynecology and the alumni association later presented him with its Frank Babbott Memorial Award for Distinguished Service to the Medical Profession. He was recognized by APGO with its Public Recognition Award for Outstanding Contributions to Obstetrics and Gynecology. He was founding President of the Society for Reproductive Surgeons, and the 35th President of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine. His most recent recognition was in the year 2000 when the Global Alliance for Women's Health, a non-governmental organization of the United Nations, honored him with its Scientific Leadership Award.

Celso's greatest satisfaction was in his relationship with his wife, Shirley Stoddard García, who predeceased him by only four weeks, his children, Celso-Ramón García, Jr. and Sarita García Cole, and four grandchildren. During the last several years of her life, Shirley was wheelchair bound and Celso was her principal caregiver, accomplishing this against virtually impossible odds. When Celso was elected to Penn's Chapter of AOA, his accomplishments were summarized as follows: "In his teaching and in his practice, Celso- Ramón García has brought to the field humanity and a sense of positive purpose and continues to do so consistently year after year." Celso was, without question, a major force in reproductive medicine and is survived by his lasting impact on women's health and the broader community.

Submitted by Luigi Mastroianni, Jr., M.D. and Edward E. Wallach, M.D.

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