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Object Number 2012.006.003
Object Name Letter
Title Letter from William Littler to Robert Chase, 5 August 1998
Scope & Content 2-page letter from William Littler to Robert Chase, mainly concerning artwork
Dates of Creation August 5, 1998
Creator Littler, William
Collection Chase, Robert
Subjects Covered Hand Surgery
Exhibit Label Title Early Pioneers: James William Littler, MD
Exhibit Label Text To view this letter in PDF form, please copy and paste the link below into your browser:

James William Littler, MD (1915-2005) was a surgeon who developed many techniques for restoring function and sensation to the fingers and wrist. Dr. Littler's early devotion to hand surgery contributed to its emergence as a separate discipline. Dr. Littler received his bachelor's degree and medical degree at Duke University. After a medical internship at John Hopkins Hospital, he enlisted in the Army.

During World War II, he operated on soldiers at Cushing General Hospital, near Boston, and later at Valley Forge Army Hospital in Pennsylvania. Though he had yet to complete his residency training, he began shaping and refining surgical techniques still in use today. He worked on new ways to reconstruct missing thumbs, including replacing them with parts of forefingers, and he transplanted healthy bundles of nerves and arteries to areas that had lost feeling, a procedure known as sensory neurovascular island transfer. To revive arms and hands paralyzed by nerve damage, he transferred tendons from areas that were unharmed.

In 1946, he helped found the American Society for Surgery of the Hand (ASSH). In the 1950s, Dr. Littler founded the hand surgery unit at what is now St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center, a teaching hospital of Columbia College Physicians and Surgeons. Now called the C.V. Starr Hand Surgery Center, the unit was the first to devote itself to civilian hand injuries, according to the hospital. Hundreds of hand surgeons trained there under Dr. Littler. He served as ASSH president from 1962 to 1963.
Associated People Littler, William
Chase, Robert
Keyword Search Terms Littler, William
Chase, Robert
Hand Surgery
Early Pioneers
2012 Chase Library Exhibit