William A. Little

William A. Little


William A. Little, professor and chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Miami, died on October 14, 1996. He was appointed chairman in 1966 at the age of 35, one of the youngest persons to hold such a position in the country.

Bill Little graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Johns Hopkins University in 1951 at the age of 20. Four years later he received the degree of Doctor of Medicine from the University of Rochester as a member of the Alpha Omega Alpha honor society. He interned at St. Louis' Barnes Hospital and served 5 years of residency at the Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital in New York, the last 2 years as chief resident. During residency he was a Fellow of the Josiah Macy, Jr., Foundation and the American Cancer Society.

His first faculty position was as assistant professor at the University of Florida, where he remained from 1961 to 1966. In 1962 he was chosen as a Markle Scholar. He was promoted to associate professor during his last year at Florida and was granted leave from the university to serve in the United States Public Health Service as Senior Surgeon and Assistant Chief of the Section on Obstetrics, Perinatal Research Branch, National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Blindness, National Institutes of Health.

When he came to Miami as chairman there were five faculty members in the department, twelve residents, and a little known residency program. Under his leadership, all the subspecialties of obstetrics and gynecology were developed, the faculty achieved national and international recognition, a higher than average number of students each year chose obstetrics and gynecology as their specialty, and Miami's residency positions became highly sought after. Two hundred forty-four residents, an extraordinary number, graduated from the program during his tenure as department chairman and residency program director. Many of South Florida's current obstetrician-gynecologists were trained by him. His residents, colleagues, and associates formed the William A. Little Society in his honor.

Bill helped the medical school achieve national stature. He served as chairman of the clinical department heads at the university and as vice president of the Jackson Memorial Hospital. His obstetrics and gynecology department became an anchor of what is now one of the largest medical centers in the country. He led his department through tumultuous times, when a swelling indigent population produced drastic overcrowding at Jackson Memorial Hospital.

He had a great impact on the health of women in South Florida. He established one of South Florida's first family planning clinics, and provided Pap smears and other routine examinations to migrant workers as part of his effort to expand health care to poor people. Bill Little also brought in Dade County's first nurse-midwife. Now dozens of nurse-midwives work at four University-Jackson Memorial locations. He quadrupled the size of the University of Miami Women's Center by opening a facility in the suburbs. During his 30 years he had the foresight to change direction when necessary to prosper in times of uncertainty.

Bill's investigative experience and training included experimental embryology, experimental and prenatal pharmacology, biochemistry of pregnancy, placentology, epidemiology of perinatal conditions, teratology, and cytogenetics. He was awarded grants from the Ford Foundation for investigative programs in reproductive biology, from the National Institutes of Health for a collaborative review of sterilization and hysterectomy, from Syntex Laboratories for a study of contraceptive pills, and from the Office of Economic Opportunity to study family planning. His scholarly productivity included 64 publications in medical journals.

Bill Little was an examiner for the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology from 1978 until the time of his death. For more than 20 years he was consultant to the Food and Drug Administration, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, and the National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Blindness at the National Institutes of Health. He was a member of the National Research Council's Subcommittee on the Effects of Growth and Development and served as consultant to the Ford Foundation. Bill was a member of the Board of Directors of the American Fertility Society, Chairman of the Obstetrics Section of the Southern Medical Association, and a member of various committees of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. He served as Obstetrics and Gynecology Consultant to the Virgin Islands and Editor-in-Chief of the Southern and Caribbean Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

He was a member of many important professional societies. Among them were the American Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American Gynecological Society, American Gynecological and Obstetrical Society, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Society of Gynecologic Surgeons, American Fertility Society, American Society for the Study of Sterility, American Association of Planned Parenthood Physicians, Teratology Society, International Primatological Society, Congenital Anomalies Research Association of Japan, North American Menopause Society, and American Public Health Association.

Bill had a quick wit and a warm and engaging personality. In his work and in his life he was imaginative and he was enterprising. He was shrewd and an astute judge of people. He made you think on your feet. He was an excellent teacher and an extraordinary and very caring physician. His patients, friends, colleagues, residents, staff, and family will miss him.

Submitted by Jack Blechner

Return to In Memoriam