I am saddened to note the passing of a friend and colleague, Dr. Walter Landmesser, who died Sunday night. He was 88. Walter had many distinctions over his lengthy career, not the least of which was its span as a member of AAMC’s medical staff. Walter joined us in 1954 and only retired from our ranks in 2013, though he still saw a small number of patients in his office. Many of us have not yet been alive as long as Walter was a practicing physician.
Walter was one of the early orthopedic surgeons on our staff, which in the 50’s consisted largely of internists, general practitioners and general surgeons. He served as Chief of the Orthopedics Service from 1968 to 1976. He was heavily involved in clinical quality review programs, serving as Chair of the Tissue and Blood Usage Committee and later on the Patient Care Monitoring Committee. He also chaired the Medical / Surgical Liaison Committee. He was highly respected for his integrity, his skill in the O.R., and his expertise in his specialty. As Orthopedics expanded and became a major service line with many subspecialties, Walter was the patriarch who could –and often did – let his colleagues know at Service meetings how their new procedures grew out of their predecessors’ experience.
AAMC has probably never had a more loyal and dedicated staff physician. When AAMC bought property next door to its downtown location in 1971, four houses needed to be removed. Walter bought them. One was demolished. Three were loaded onto barges on Spa Creek for the first leg of a trip to his property off Hilltop Lane. Two made it and one of them served for the next 44 years as his home and office. One barge famously sank with its burden in Spa Creek; in 2015 Walter still had the Capital photo of the half-submerged house in his office.
Walter was generous in his gifts to AAMC. His last appearance here was at the October 2014 Medical Staff Meeting, where the AAMC Foundation honored him by naming the Walter Landmesser Society for medical staff members who include AAMC in their estate plans or other planned gifts. Walter was the first to do so. He may have been at the meeting in a wheelchair, but the medical staff was on its feet in appreciation.
One thing that Walter did not do well was retirement. In addition to seeing his long-time patients, he continued his quality improvement work by performing documentation and case reviews for us. In addition to helping his colleagues improve their documentation practices (whether they thought they needed to or not), Walter contributed significant data analysis to our regulatory monitoring programs and performance improvement projects through his meticulous case reviews.
Walter Landmesser was a friend and a credit to our profession. We were honored to have had him as a member of our medical staff. We will miss him.
By Joe Moser, MD, Vice President of Medical Affairs