Advancing paediatric surgery through education and research

Obituary: Professor J. Alex Haller

20th May 1927 – 13th June 2018

Alex Haller was a loyal friend to BAPS, attending and contributing to many congresses with his wife Emily. He was a striking figure to meet, not least for his boundless energy.
In 1963, Dr Blalock invited Alex to be co-founder of a new Division of Pediatric Surgery at Johns Hopkins Medical Center. He had graduated from Johns Hopkins Medical School in 1951 and had returned, after National Service, as a Surgical Resident in 1955. From 1959, Alex had been for 4 years Chief of Cardiac Surgery at Louisville General Hospital.
During his nearly 30 years as Professor and Surgeon-in-Charge, Alex was an innovator for the care of sick and injured children. In 1973, he established the first US Children’s Trauma Centre, soon developing into a state-wide trauma system, many decades before anything comparable appeared in the UK. He contributed to the design of the first Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) protocol and brought all the pediatric services at Johns Hopkins together in a purpose-built Children’s Medical and Surgical Center.
Academically, Pediatric Surgery thrived at Johns Hopkins with over 350 publications, including introducing the ‘Haller Index’ to assess the impact of pectus excavatum. He was awarded the William Edward Ladd Medal (AAP), the Vaclav Kafka Medal (Czech Republic) and the Denis Browne Medal (1995) in recognition of his many outstanding contributions.
Alex and Emily, also a doctor, married in 1951 and had 2 daughters, one an ophthalmologist, 2 sons and sixteen grandchildren. In 1979, Alex enjoyed 3 months in London as Visiting Paediatric Surgeon to Guy’s Hospital, enabled by a well-established link between these two hospitals. He will be fondly remembered by many Pediatric Surgeons, who all benefitted from his infectious enthusiasm and mentoring.

David Drake