ROBERT 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.
Held by John P. Gearhart
JOHN P. GEARHART, MD, professor and director of pediatric urology at the James Buchanan Brady Urological Institute, is the inaugural Robert D. Jeffs Professor of Pediatric Urology.
Dr. Gearhart heads a world-class pediatric urology division specializing in the reconstruction of major genitourinary birth defects in children, including the bladder exstrophy-epispadias condition, ambiguous genitalia, and childhood urinary cancers. Patients now come from across the country and around the world to seek treatment and evaluation of their exstrophy condition at the Brady Urological Institute.
In 1975, Dr. Gearhart graduated with honors from the University of Louisville School of Medicine. He completed an internship and residency at the Medical College of Georgia where he became chief resident in urology in 1980. That same year, he was awarded a fellowship in pediatric urology at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital at the University of Liverpool School of Medicine. In 1982, he joined the faculty at St. Mary’s Hospital in Huntington, West Virginia, as a urologist.
Two years later, Dr. Gearhart arrived at the James Buchanan Brady Urological Institute as a fellow and an instructor in pediatric urology under the guidance of Dr. Robert Jeffs who became his great friend and mentor. In 1985, he was named assistant professor of pediatric urology and, in 1991, he was named director of pediatric urology, assuming Dr. Jeff’s role.
During his tenure, Dr. Gearhart has built a strong division focusing on a number of other childhood deformities, such as spina bifida, obstruction of the upper urinary tract and deformities of the external genitalia. He and his associates perform difficult operations using tiny telescopes so that scars are small rather than disfiguring, resulting in the patient having an improved self-image. In addition, he has an academic and clinical interest in reconstructive surgery for children who have undergone previously failed bladder exstrophy closures elsewhere.
In 2007, he was the invited guest lecturer at the World Congress of Pediatric Surgery in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and presented the first Charles J. Devine Memorial Lecture at the American Urological Association’s Genitourinary Reconstructive Surgeons meeting in San Francisco. In 2008, he was awarded a fellowship ad hominem of the Royal College of Surgeons, in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Dr. Gearhart has served on a number of special committees, including the Professorial Promotions Committee at Harvard University School of Medicine and Cornell University School of Medicine. He has been a special advisor to England’s National Health Service on bladder exstrophy. He has mentored a number of clinical and research fellows at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, many of whom are serving as chiefs of pediatric urology in prestigious institutions in the United States and abroad. A prolific writer and an effective orator, Dr. Gearhart has contributed to more than 250 publications, authored more than 50 chapters in textbooks, and delivered more than 350 research and clinical papers around the world.