It is very likely that you are reading this now because of an operation that was performed on April 26, 1982. This was the very first "nerve-sparing" operation, the "Walsh procedure," based on painstaking anatomical work and discoveries made by surgeon Patrick C. Walsh, M.D., and the Dutch urologist Pieter Donker. For the first time, a man had his cancerous prostate removed, and did not lose potency. Millions of men have since undergone this life saving operation.
Over the next 29 years, Walsh made 28 major changes to his surgical technique, and has continuously improved his results. On June 29, 2011, he performed his last operation, number 4,569. "I decided to stop operating when I had the best results I have ever had," says Walsh. "I've always believed that as surgeons came close to the end of their career, they should stop operating one or two years too soon and not a second too late. I took my own advice."
"It is an outstanding record by anyone's count," says Ed Miller, M.D., Dean and CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine. "Pat Walsh is one of the giants in medicine. Although he is best known for his 30 years as the Professor and Director of the Brady Urological Institute (from 1974 to 2004), and for his pioneering work in the development of the nerve-sparing techniques that have dramatically reduced the likelihood of impotence and incontinence with radical prostatectomy, he has also made major contributions to the basic understanding of benign and cancerous growth in the prostate. Along with co-workers, he was the first to describe 5 alpha-reductase enzyme deficiency, to develop an experimental technique to reproduce BPH in the laboratory, to demonstrate the influence of reversible androgen deprivation on BPH, and to characterize hereditary prostate cancer."
Walsh wants everyone to know that he has not retired. Instead, he continues to see patients in consultation, to write and teach. "I will be available to all of my patients at any time when they need my help," he says. "My decision was made easy, because I am confident that patients will have access to a large group of talented surgeons at Hopkins who are skilled in both open and robotic procedures."
This year, Walsh received the Edward Keyes Medal, in recognition of his lifetime contributions to the field, from the American Association of Genitourinary Surgeons. This is considered to be the most distinguished urologic organization in the world, and the Keyes Medal is its highest honor. In his acceptance speech, Walsh made it clear that he owes his successful career to the support and inspiration of his wife, Peg. "In addition, Peg's taste and elegance are reflected throughout the Brady, and around the Johns Hopkins Hospital," he says. "Anyone who has visited has seen her architectural and design contributions in the renovation of the patient, office, and lab spaces in the historic Marburg Building; she has created a wonderful home for patient healing, scientific discovery, and education. What they do not see is her tireless 30 years of dedication in creating and supporting the culture of excellence that has characterized the Brady Urological Institute."