More than 30 years after helping to create the partnership between Wolfson Children’s Hospital and Nemours Children’s Specialty Care, Jacksonville, a WWII veteran and pioneering pediatric surgeon’s legacy lives on through the new chair of surgery for both institutions.
Robert W. Letton, Jr., MD, a board-certified pediatric surgeon, assumed the position of chair of the Department of Surgery for Nemours and Wolfson Children’s in May. He is also the Albert H. Wilkinson, Jr., MD, Endowed Professor in Pediatric Surgery.
“Wolfson Children’s Hospital is committed to providing expert care for our region’s sickest and most critically injured children,” said Michael D. Aubin, FACHE, president of Wolfson Children’s Hospital. “Dr. Letton not only brings his expertise in the field of pediatric surgery, but a strong drive to grow both Wolfson Children’s and Nemours, and train other pediatric surgeons to follow in his footsteps.”
Dr. Letton was previously the medical director of the Pediatric Trauma Program and director of the Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) Program at Children’s Hospital of Oklahoma in Oklahoma City, where he was also the Paula Milburn Miller Endowed Chair in Pediatric Surgery.
“Dr. Letton’s experience and national reputation in pediatric surgery and trauma will further enhance our already wonderful programs,” said Gary Josephson, MD, chief medical officer of Nemours Children’s Specialty Care, Jacksonville. “His passion for our mission in caring for children, and his interest in promoting research, education and clinical care will assure we will provide the region with the most innovative models in caring for the children and families we serve.”
The Wilkinson Endowment was funded by the Women’s Board of Wolfson Children’s Hospital as part of a five-year, $4 million pledge to create a Pediatric Surgery Center of Distinction at Wolfson Children’s. The endowment was created in memory of Dr. Wilkinson, Jacksonville’s first pediatric surgeon and one of the founders of Nemours, to support a renowned pediatric surgeon who will develop and enhance surgical techniques and equipment, and train the next generation of pediatric surgeons.
“The Women’s Board of Wolfson Children’s Hospital is excited to welcome Dr. Letton, a true leader in pediatric surgery,” said Katherine Armstrong Forrester, president of the Women’s Board. “It is a great joy to honor the late Dr. Albert H. Wilkinson. He was a champion to all children for health care in our community and region.”
Dr. Wilkinson began his career in medicine as a medical corpsman in the Navy in WWII. After his service, he completed college and pursued a career in pediatric surgery. Wilkinson oversaw the transition of Nemours in Jacksonville from a small children’s hospital to a large multi-specialty outpatient care clinic and laid the groundwork for the partnership between Nemours and Wolfson Children’s as it stands today. Dr. Wilkinson passed away in 2013 at 86.
Dr. Letton, who served in Kuwait and Germany with the U.S. Army Reserves medical corps, said of practicing in a military community like Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia, “It’s an honor to carry on the legacy of a fellow veteran like Dr. Wilkinson. I have always taken great pride in caring for military families, and I’m happy to be in a city and a region that values servicemembers.”
Dr. Letton began his position with Wolfson Children’s and Nemours in May 2019. He is married with two adult children. Outside of work, he enjoys listening to rock music and playing the guitar. In fact, he’s been in several bands in the past, primarily made up of other physicians. Dr. Letton looks forward to getting to know Jacksonville’s music scene, including checking out the old stomping grounds of Lynyrd Skynyrd.