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January 10, 2017

65 years in, this 100-year-old surgeon still shows up for work at Massachusetts General

Daily Briefing

    Sixty-five years after he began his career with Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), Walter Guralnick still spends most of his days working at the department of oral and maxillofacial surgery, Billy Baker writes for the Boston Globe.

    The 100-year-old dental surgeon has "long been a giant" in the medical field, Baker writes. He began his career overseas during World War II, enlisting shortly after earning his doctor of dental medicine degree from Harvard University in 1941. He worked in hospital units in England, France, and Belgium.

    When he returned home, Guralnick focused much of his career on helping people access dental care, founding Delta Dental and serving, pro bono, as its president for many years. At MGH, he served as the chief of the department of oral and maxillofacial surgery from 1966 to 1983, and he led the movement to allow oral surgeons to pursue dual degrees in medicine and dentistry.

    Guralnick no longer sees patients, but he still spends many of his days in the department he once led, teaching and mentoring residents. 

    "It's so enlightening to have him," said Maria Troulis, the current chief of oral and maxillofacial surgery at MGH.  "Even though he's 100 years old, he's very au courant. He's focused on where we need to go."

    One of Guralnick's children, Peter, credits his father's continuing career to his "ongoing commitment to the humanism of medicine." Peter said, "He believes medicine serves the patients, and he believes there should be equal access for all. That has been his goal from the start, and it is no less his goal today."

    And will Guralnick ever retire? Not if he can help it. "I haven't retired because my interests are the same now as they were 50 years ago," Guralnick said. "I've always said that if you're gonna work, you should seek to find something that you enjoy doing, and hopefully at the same time you can do some good for people" (Baker, Boston Globe, 1/5).

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