GIANTS OF UROLOGY: W. Hardy Hendren III, MD, 1926-2022

By: Ron Rabinowitz, MD, FAAP, FACS | Posted on: 01 Aug 2022

On March 1, 2022, Dr. Hardy Hendren, one of the foremost pediatric surgeons in the world, died at age 96 (Fig 1.). He was born on February 7, 1926, in New Orleans, Louisiana and at age 7 moved with his parents and 2 sisters to Kansas City, Missouri. Following family tradition, he graduated high school from the Woodberry Forest School in Virginia at age 17. At a high school football game, he met the love of his life, Eleanor McKenna, whom he married at age 21; they were life partners for the next 75 years. After enrolling at Dartmouth, he enlisted in the Navy in 1943 and became a carrier-qualified naval aviator aboard the USS Saipan.

Figure 1. Dr. Hardy Hendren (courtesy of The Hendren Project).

Following 3 years on active duty, he returned to Dartmouth for his BA degree and his first 2 years of medical school. He graduated cum laude from Harvard Medical School in 1952. As a senior, he was an instrumental leader in the creation of the National Internship Matching Program from the Boston Pool Plan. Following an internship and residency at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), including a year at Children’s Hospital Boston under Robert Gross, he completed a chief residency at MGH, followed by a chief residency at Boston Children’s.

In 1960, after 8 years of surgical training, he returned to MGH as Chief of the new Department of Pediatric Surgery, where he remained for the next 22 years. In 1982, he became Chief of Surgery at Boston Children’s Hospital and the first Robert E. Gross Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School, a position he held for 16 years. In 2012, Dr. Hendren was named Distinguished Robert E. Gross Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School, Chief of Surgery Emeritus at Boston Children’s Hospital and Honorary Surgeon at MGH. Harvard Medical School established the Hendren Chair in Surgery in 2008. In 2014, colleagues and former trainees formed The W. H. Hendren Education Foundation for Pediatric Surgery & Urology. The Hendren Project, a nonprofit on-line educational resource for pediatric surgeons and urologists, now has over 5,000 regular users from 138 countries.

“Hardy Hendren was a pioneer in the reconstruction of the most complicated general surgical and urological congenital anomalies.”

Hardy Hendren was a pioneer in the reconstruction of the most complicated general surgical and urological congenital anomalies. In addition to his clinical and surgical expertise, he was a prolific writer, authoring more than 300 publications. A committed caregiver, he was also a world-renowned teacher, traveling to more than 60 countries to perform reconstructive surgery. He lectured the world over, teaching the management of these complex cases. Dr. Hendren was a member of and had leadership roles in numerous scientific organizations, including the American College of Surgeons, American Surgical Association, American Pediatric Surgical Association, AUA, Society for Pediatric Urology, British Association of Pediatric Surgeons, American Academy of Pediatrics (Surgical Fellow and Urology Fellow), Royal College of Surgeons of England and the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland. Dr. Hendren received many prestigious awards, including both the William E. Ladd Medal and the Urology Medal from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Denis Browne Medal from the British Association of Pediatric Surgeons, the Distinguished Service Award from the American Pediatric Surgical Association, and both the Certificate of Achievement Award and the Victor Politano Award from the American Urological Association (Fig 2.).

Figure 2. Dr. Hendren receiving the Victor Politano Award from AUA President William Gee in 2016.

I first met Dr. Hendren in the fall of 1975 when I was a Pediatric Urology Fellow at the Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto. I had read his writings and knew of him. He was visiting and interviewing for either Chief of Urology or Chief of Surgery (I think Urology, but can’t be certain). I do remember that he spoke with the Pediatric Urology faculty. My mentor, Dr. Martin Barkin, brought him to my cubicle to discuss what I was working on. I was the only Fellow that year, so we spent about a half hour together. He was interested in the clinical research projects that I was working on, especially my work on megaureters and differences in management depending upon etiology. He thought the project was excellent and encouraged me to continue and, especially, to publish. Two years later, when the project received the AUA First Prize for Clinical Research, he was very congratulatory and thanked me for contributing to the literature on one of his favorite topics. I subsequently met him multiple times at the American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Urology, American Pediatric Surgical Association and AUA meetings. He always knew who I was, said that he liked my presentations and sometimes offered helpful comments. The last time I saw him was at the AUA in San Diego in May 2016. My wife Sally and I were in line behind Hardy and Eleanor, and we spoke for about 15 minutes. He asked me what I was working on and we had a nice discussion about urological history and the importance of teaching history’as well as clinical care and surgical techniques’to our trainees. Hardy Hendren was always a first-class gentleman whenever we met. He will be missed.

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