Ask surgeons at the McGovern Medical School who had a large impact on their careers and there is a good chance they will say Frank G. Moody, M.D.
Many of these surgeons gathered for a November memorial service honoring the remarkable career of the late chairman of the Department of Surgery. Moody died on Aug. 13 at the age of 88 in Sweden.
“The number of surgeons who have been touched, led and influenced by his vision and care is overwhelming to me,” said Erik Wilson, M.D., one of the speakers at the ceremony and the Lynn and Oscar Wyatt Chair in Metabolic Research.
Wilson described Moody as the “patriarch” of the department. When Wilson graduated from medical school, he wanted to help people with life-threatening weight problems and he thought surgery was a way to do it. At the time, bariatric surgery was sometimes derided as quackery. With Moody’s support, Wilson persevered in his career choice and has since improved the lives of thousands of people with morbid obesity.
“He explained and showed me through his own patients how privileged we are to help people who have been judged, ridiculed and have often lost hope because of their weight,” said Wilson, who heads elective surgery at the McGovern Medical School and Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center.
“Dr. Moody showed me how incredibly rewarding it was to treat a truly complex disease that most physicians at the time thought was just a matter of willpower or gluttony or sloth,” said Wilson, noting that the UTHealth elective surgery service is called the Moody Service.
Moody, a New Hampshire native, was internationally recognized for his research and surgical treatment of digestive diseases with special emphasis on peptic ulcers, gallstones, inflammation of the intestines and the treatment of morbid obesity.
“Dr. Moody was a great man, mentor, surgeon and friend,” said Richard Andrassy, M.D., who met Moody 44 years ago and who in 1994 was asked by Moody to take over as chairman of the Department of Surgery.
“Dr. Moody grew the department with the help of James H. “Red” Duke Jr., M.D., and Stanley Dudrick, M.D.,” said Andrassy, the Denton A. Cooley, M.D. Chair in Surgery, the Dr. Thomas D. Cronin Chair in Plastic Surgery and the Jack H. Mayfield, M.D. Distinguished University Chair in Surgery.
Moody was the surgery chair for the medical school 1982 to 1994 and before that chaired the surgery department at the University of Utah.
“He came to Texas because he saw a bigger opportunity. They sent a Learjet to pick him up and the facilities here were much bigger than they were in Utah,” his son Frank W. Moody Jr. said.
“He was an intellectual who always wanted to research and learn. He always thought that if you asked enough questions, you could find a better way to treat the patient,” said the younger Moody.
The elder Moody also had two daughters – Anne Mjaatvedt and Jane Bjorklund – with his late first wife Barbara Schmelzer. His second wife Maria Charlotta Stolpe died in 2004. His fiancée Inger Ardern was a source of support during Moody’s final decade.
“I remember that he was always interested in the news. He loved to hear what other people thought and then challenged them,” said Moody’s granddaughter Frances Moody.
“He loved the outdoors and had a house in Salt Lake City. He skied up until the age of 80 and was a paratrooper in the military,” she said.
Moody’s career as an academic surgeon covered 55 years and his many honors included the 2016 Medallion for the Advancement of Surgical Care from the American Surgical Association. Moody captured the highlights of his career in a book he wrote called “Frank Reflections.”
He graduated from Cornell University Medical College and completed post-graduate training at Cornell’s New York Hospital.
“He had the ability to bring stuff out of you that you didn’t know you had,” said Layton F. Rikkers, M.D., one of Moody’s mentees at the University of Utah.
Rikkers said that nine of the 55 chief surgery residents that Moody trained went on be the chairs of major surgery departments.
John R. Potts III, M.D., who completed a fellowship under the direction of Moody at the University of Utah, said Moody was one of the most active people he ever met.
“He could out-ski and out-hike every resident in the program,” Potts recalled.
“It’s been said that God is everywhere but you can’t see him. It’s also been said that Frank Moody is everywhere and you can see him,” Potts said.