December 1, 2022
William F. Sasser, MD, FACS, a renowned cardiothoracic surgeon and ACS Past-Second Vice-President, passed away on September 25. He was 88 years old.
Dr. Sasser earned his undergraduate degree from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN, in 1956, and his medical degree from Emory University Medical School in Atlanta, GA, in 1960. From there, he went on to a surgical residency at Barnes Hospital (now Barnes-Jewish Hospital) in St. Louis, MO, where he began a 60+ year career as a surgeon, educator, and mentor.
In 2004, toward the end of his active surgical career, Dr. Sasser left private practice and joined the teaching faculty at St. Louis University (SLU). According to his colleague, partner at SLU, and friend, Keith S. Naunheim, MD, FACS, when asked about this somewhat unusual career change, Dr. Sasser would answer, “Surgery has given me so much, so I just decided it was time to give back.”
During his decade at SLU, Dr. Sasser stayed true to his word and gave back by becoming a beloved mentor. With his unique combination of surgical skill, upbeat demeanor, and Southern charm, Dr. Sasser quickly became a favorite teacher. “While it’s true he was an excellent teacher regarding the technical aspects of surgical procedures, he was more valued by faculty and trainees alike for his insights and accounts of the larger universe of cardiothoracic surgery,” Dr. Naunheim said.
Dr. Sasser’s regional and national leadership roles had led him to interact with the prominent figures in chest surgery, and he would regale students and residents with anecdotes describing those surgeons and their work.
According to Dr. Naunheim, “Some of these stories were technical, others were humorous or personal, but all were instructive regarding the realities of surgery—both good and bad.”
These accounts provided a rich portrait of general thoracic surgery and provided trainees a window into that world that was both instructive and entertaining. When he finally retired after a decade at SLU, Dr. Sasser was recognized as the GOM (Grand Old Man) in the surgery department.
A Fellow of the College since 1971, Dr. Sasser had a steadfast commitment to the ACS and took on several leadership roles later in his career, including serving as Second Vice-President, 2005–2006. He was a member of the Board of Governors (BoG), 1995–2001, during which time he was a member of the BoG Committee on Socioeconomic Issues, the Chair of the BoG Committee to Study the Fiscal Affairs of the College, and the BoG Secretary (1998–2000).
In line with his dedication to giving back to surgery, Dr. Sasser played an important part of developing the ACS Foundation—which obtains financial support for the charitable and educational work of the College—into the effective force it is today by serving as a board member and regular contributor.