In the Beginning...



The Growth and Development of a Pediatric Surgeon

          Morton M. Woolley was born in a little house on Peach Tree Street in Atlanta, Georgia on September 17, 1924. He was the fourth child of Mary Murray Woolley and Andrew Price Woolley. Big sister Mary Virginia was 18, brother Andy,junior was 9 and a little sister, baby Anna,  had died in infancy a few years before little Mort arrived.

      Mort was no ordinary child. "He was a paragon of perfection as a child, an exemplary teenager, and destined to be a giant among men..." according to his mother. He was, at least, a charming little boy with long blonde curls, sparkling blue eyes, and deep dimples when he smiled.

     A happy childhood was marred by the untimely death of his beloved father when Mort was seven. By this time the family had moved to Denver in an attempt to find a better climate for his ailing father. Andrew Woolley died in Denver, Colorado in 1931. Shortly thereafter, Mort and his mother moved to Worthington, Ohio to be near his sister, Mary Virginia Harding.     

      In Worthington, Mort became a high school basketball star and heartbreaker among the coeds. Names of his various friends such as Joan, Janice, Joyce and Jean made it rather difficult for the young swain to keep them all straight.

    Along came the "Big War" and our patriotic hero enlisted in the Navy. Soon the engraved I.D. bracelets followed with sentiments such as "with love, Joyce," "all my love, Janice,"  "miss you, Joan," etc. In boot camp, Mort became the acting chief petty officer whose job it was to keep the boys marching in cadence . When this had been accomplished, he moved on to flight training win the Navy's V-7 program where he performed dives, rolls and stalls. Had it not been for a propensity for motion sickness, Mort may have become the world's Greatest pilot, Rather than the world's greatest pediatric Surgeon.

     Peace came, and our hero returned to Ohio to graduate from Otterbein College in Westerville, Ohio. In 1946, he entered the College of Medical Evangelists in Loma Linda, California to begin a remarkable career as a physician.

   After 2 years of internship (some people are slow learners), he became a general surgery resident at Los Angeles County Hospital during the "Golden Years" of county hospital surgery. Some of his fellow residents included Lou Smith, Bob Vannix, Fred Turrill, Dick Carter, Jerry Longerbean, Ralph Thompson, to name a few of the greats.

     In 1954, A young lady intern, Emma Jane Griffith, entered his life. After many testimonies that he would never marry a doctor, he succumbed to her charms. Early in November of 1954, he handed her his meager county paycheck with the question, "Do you want to help me spend it?" She agreed and has been helping him spend it ever since. They were married on July 24 1955.

     In July 1956, the newlyweds moved to Boston for Mort to work with Robert E. Gross of Harvard's Boston Children's Hospital. Jane finished anesthesiology at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital.

     The Woolley's spent three years in Boston. They gained much knowledge, made many friends and began a family. Cynthia Jane was born on June 7, 1958.

     The happy little family returned to Los Angeles in 1960. Mort opened an office near the white memorial hospital with Lou Smith. The two young surgeons joined the faculty of Loma Linda University medical School and waited to take Los Angeles by storm. They waited, and waited, and finally managed to gross about $46.50 by the end of the third month in practice. The practice grew and soon the young surgeons joined the Surgical Multispecialities Group, which was the surgical faculty of LLU until the clinical years of the Medical School moved to Loma Linda.

       As the practice grew, so did the family. Douglas Albert was born on November 21st 1959 and James Morton was born on February 23 in 1961.

     Mort's practice became more and more centered at the Children's Hospital of Los Angeles and when Dr. William Snyder retired as surgeon in chief in 1969, Mort was asked to become the acting surgeon in chief and in 1975 he was made full-time surgeon in chief, and professor of surgery at the University of Southern California.

         The young pediatric surgeon grew in wisdom and stature, and the years have slipped by. He has been a loving husband and father, a superb teacher, a compassionate surgeon and a loyal friend. He is truly a giant among men...his mother was right.





This site was last updated 09/16/04