“A Life-Transforming Opportunity”

December 6, 2021

Alumnus endows fund for residents in surgery training

When Charles “Charlie” Fraser III became the third generation in his family to complete the Halsted surgery training program, his father, Charles “Chuck” Fraser Jr., HS ’93, Med ’90 (PGF), HS ’07, wanted to make a substantial gift in honor of the educational experience the program provides.

Through an endowment, the Fraser family established the Fraser Family Resident Support Fund, which allows the residency director to support trainees’ attendance at meetings, including registration and travel, or help with other needs that arise.

“There is no residency like the Halsted residency in surgery, anywhere,” says Fraser, director of the Texas Center for Pediatric and Congenital Heart Disease at Dell Children’s Medical Center in Austin, and a professor of pediatrics and surgery and perioperative care at Dell Medical School. “That’s the basis for our passion for this.”

Hopkins surgeries donor Charles Fraser Jr.
Charles Fraser Jr. established the Fraser Family Resident Support Fund in honor of his and his family’s educational experience in the Halsted surgery training program.

The family has a decades-long history with Johns Hopkins. Fraser’s late father-in-law, heart surgeon Denton Cooley, completed his surgical residency in 1950 and went on to found the Texas Heart Institute. Just a few months after starting his internship, Cooley assisted Alfred Blalock, Med ’22 (MD), in performing the world’s first “blue baby” operation. He also met and married Louise Thomas, Nurs ’47 (Cert), a former head nurse on Halsted 5 and a graduate of the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing.

When Fraser was a medical student interested in pediatric surgery and engaged to Cooley’s daughter Helen, Cooley encouraged him to train at Johns Hopkins, which at the time seemed like a mythical place to Fraser. Cooley made some calls, and Fraser came to complete a rotation at Johns Hopkins under pediatric surgeon J. Alex Haller and general surgeon (and later chair) John Cameron. The work was hard, Fraser says, but he was hooked. He applied for and got accepted to the residency training program.

“That was a life-transforming opportunity,” says Fraser, who notes he was lucky to learn firsthand from surgical greats on the faculty including Vincent Gott, G. Melville Williams, Bill Baumgartner, and Bruce Reitz. “The investment that they made in me almost brings tears to my eyes. It changed the person I am, and it gave me a platform that enabled me to achieve a measure of success in surgery.”

While in Baltimore, Fraser’s wife, Helen, did clerical work for the Wilmer Eye Institute, and the couple had their four children. Fraser continued to think fondly of the residency program throughout his career in academic pediatric cardiac surgery, which took him to the Cleveland Clinic, Baylor College of Medicine, Texas Children’s Hospital, and the University of Texas Dell Medical School. He still considers himself a Halsted resident and says he continues to draw from his instructors’ lessons in clinical scenarios.

About 10 years ago, Fraser’s daughter Laura earned a master’s degree from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and in 2021, his son Charlie completed his Halsted surgical residency.

“There’s no measure of gift that I can give that’s commensurate with what I’ve received from Hopkins,” Fraser says.

This story originally appeared in the Winter 2022 edition of Cutting Edge.

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Topics: Friends of Johns Hopkins Medicine, Johns Hopkins Medicine, Support Scholars