Richard Symmonds, MD

Richard Symmonds, MD

Richard Symmonds, MD (February 7, 2016)

Dr. Richard (Dick) Symmonds died on February 7, 2016 at the age of 93. At a very young age, Dick would routinely accompany and assist his father, a rural Missouri physician, on house calls, where he developed an early appreciation of the rigors and gratification inherent in the profession. As a student-athlete, he attended Central Missouri Methodist College and subsequently matriculated at the Duke University School of Medicine. He was a member of the Duke University Medical School basketball team and participated in what is chronicled in "The Secret Game" by Scott Ellsworth as the first interracial basketball game in Durham, N.C.

Following service in the U.S. Naval Reserve, Dr. Symmonds initiated his fellowship in obstetrics and gynecology at the Mayo Clinic and joined the staff there as an obstetrician and medical gynecologist in 1953. His desire became to garner surgical privileges, which were predicated on the completion of a residency in general surgery. He accomplished this in 1958, which afforded him a staff appointment in the Department of General Surgery. The latter required participation in "general surgery call" and initially complicated certification in obstetrics and gynecology due to lack of gender specificity.

Dick’s extraordinary surgical expertise was readily apparent in his individual design and execution of procedures addressing, but not limited to, congenital anomalies, pelvic floor dysfunction, and gynecologic malignancies. Reflecting his high daily volume, timely outcomes analyses were readily generated, which he considered paramount not only for improving the subsequent outcomes of his practice, but for sharing via publications with fellow surgical colleagues. He advanced through the academic ranks to Professor in 1970 and chaired the Division of Gynecologic Surgery until his retirement in 1983. Recognizing the need for additional surgical training for numerous complex gynecologic diseases, Dr. Symmonds initiated an advanced pelvic surgical fellowship at Mayo, which was the forerunner of the current gynecologic oncology fellowship. His foresight in recognizing the importance of and instituting surgical training in the upper abdomen for gynecologic oncologists was fundamental for accomplishing cytoreductive surgery as practiced today. Dick viewed mentorship as a lifelong endeavor and savored consultative interactions even after retirement.

Dr. Symmonds was a member of several specialty organizations, serving in various administrative capacities including President of the Society of Gynecologic Surgeons and the Society of Gynecologic Oncology.

Most importantly Dick served as a consummate role model for his children and their families. He is survived by Dege, his wife of 72 years; daughter Terry Symmonds Scott (Steven) of Salt Lake City, Utah; sons Dr. Richard E. Symmonds Jr. (Julia) of Temple, Texas and Dr. Jeffrey B. Symmonds (Andrea) of Boise, Idaho; and eight grandchildren.

Submitted by Karl C. Podratz, MD, PhD

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