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Robert D. Jeffs, M.D., Professorship in Pediatric Urology

JeffsRobertROBERT DOUGLAS JEFFS, MD, who served as professor of urology and pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, came to the Brady Urological Institute in 1975 as the founding chief of pediatric urology. He headed the division for more than 20 years as one of the world’s leading experts on urogenital malformations in children, including bladder and cloacal exstrophies, a rare congenital condition in which inner-abdominal organs develop outside the body.

A trailblazing surgeon in the field of pediatric urology, Dr. Jeffs was born in 1924 in Toronto, the child of a physician. At 17, he put his pre-med education on hold to join the Canadian Air Force. At the end of World War II he resumed his studies, earning a medical degree from the University of Toronto.

It was during a fellowship at London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital that Dr. Jeffs became fascinated by the discipline of pediatric urology. He returned home to work at both Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children and Toronto Western Hospital, and his interest blossomed into a career-long passion. He performed many surgical firsts, including the first ileal conduit, the first reimplantation, and the first dismembered pyeloplasty. He and his colleagues introduced peritoneal dialysis and began a large series of children’s kidney transplants. Dr. Jeffs was also responsible for planning a center for the rehabilitation of children with spina bifida and other conditions.

However, it was Dr. Jeffs’ work that began in the late 1950s, eventually culminating in the staged approach to surgical repair of bladder exstrophy, that drew world-wide attention. Closing the first exstrophy that had ever been performed in Toronto, Dr. Jeffs’ surgery was then considered cutting edge and experimental. Today this procedure is the modern day standard of care for most children born with this bladder abnormality.

At the urging of the Brady Urological Institute’s then-chairman Dr. Patrick C. Walsh, Dr. Jeffs was recruited to join the faculty at Johns Hopkins. During his 20 years at the helm, his colleagues came to admire not only his brilliance, but his kindness and generosity.

Dr. Jeffs retired from Johns Hopkins in 1997 and died in 2006 at the age of 82.