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Ralph Deterling Papers

Call Number: MS220

Scope and Contents

This collection primarily contains the correspondence of Ralph A. Deterling, Jr., M.D., during his time as both Professor of Surgery at Tufts University School of Medicine and Surgeon-in-Chief at the New England Medical Center Hospitals (NEMCH). Correspondence folders contain letters of recommendation, applications for research endeavors, and patient reports, reflecting Deterling's roles not only as a surgeon and professor, but also as executive administrator.

Also represented in the collection are meeting minutes and reports from various committees on which Deterling served, including the Tufts Medical Center Associates (TMCA) and the NEMCH. These meeting minutes document staff reorganization at TMCA, financial arrangements between New England Center Hospital (NECH) and its professional staff, and the planning of the Tufts-New England Medical Center (T-NEMC).

Articles published in medical journals and speeches given at symposiums, detailing Deterling's research in cardiovascular surgery and implants, are included in the Subject files series. Many items in the collection document Deterling's role in the evolution of the New England Medical Center and its partnership with Tufts University School of Medicine.

Consult the Photographs and audiovisual materials series of the New England Medical Center records (MS099.001) for images of Deterling.

This collection suffered extensive water damage due to a flood before it was in the custody of DCA. It underwent conservation efforts before processing, but several materials, particularly folders, scrapbooks, and bound volumes, are still warped or retain a musty odor.


  • Majority of material found within 1959 -- 1974
  • 1959 -- 1990


Language of Materials



This collection is organized into 4 series: Legacy collection documentation folder; Committee meeting minutes; Correspondence; and Subject files.

Related Materials

MS099, New England Medical Center records, DCA


3.6 Linear Feet

Biographical / Historical

Ralph Alden Deterling, Jr., M.D. was born on April 29, 1917 in Williamsburg Pennsylvania. He received his MD in 1942 from Stanford University and his Doctorate in Surgery in 1947 from the University of Minnesota. Fifteen years later, he would receive an award from his alma mater for his achievements in surgery at the New England Medical Center.

Dr. Deterling’s career as a surgeon was concurrent with several teaching appointments, beginning at Columbia University in 1948, where he eventually became an Associate Professor of Surgery. He held surgeon positions at several local hospitals during this time, including Presbyterian Hospital, Manhattan Veteran Hospital, Paterson General Hospital, and United States Naval Hospitals between 1948 and 1959. He played a directorial role at several surgical research laboratories, and became instrumental in developing artificial vascular graphs.

In 1959 Dr. Deterling came to Tufts, where he was named professor and chair of the Department of Surgery. He was also appointed as the Surgeon-in-Chief of the New England Medical Center, positions he assumed until his retirement from medicine in 1974. During his time at Tufts and NEMC, he continued the work of his predecessors, installing full-time faculty at NEMC and other local hospitals, as well as continuing to develop a surgical residency program for the School of Medicine. This surgical program worked in cooperation with the hospitals at NEMC. Dr. Deterling was a member of several committees, including the Tufts Medical Center Associates, which proposed the integration of the clinical departments at the New England Medical Center Hospital and the Tufts University School of Medicine.

Dr. Deterling’s research in surgery was as an integral component to his work as a teacher and surgeon at Tufts. His contribution to surgical research is represented in the many societies of which he was a member, if not a leader. In fact, he was involved in the organization of several surgical societies. He served as Secretary-General, and later President of the International Cardiovascular Society. He was also president of the New England Society of Vascular Surgery.

Dr. Deterling died in Lincoln, Massachusetts, in 1992. His son, William, is also a surgeon.

Custodial History

This collection was originally part of the archives of the New England Medical Center (NEMC), which closed in 1990. The material was received by the NEMC archives from Dr. Deterling in 1983. The collection was processed by Christine Villani, under the supervision of Dave Nathan, archivist at the NEMC archives in June 1987, and had the following NEMC acquisition number: 83-7.

In spring 2013, NEMC material was transferred from NEMC to a restoration company for conservation treatment, and was then transferred to off-site storage in custody of Digital Collections and Archives (DCA). In December 2014 and January 2015, the material was transferred to DCA for processing. Some material originally in the NEMC archives was not transferred to DCA, due to either poor condition or loss.

Processing Information

This collection was processed in August 2014 by Elizabeth Mc Gorty, Project Archivist, under the supervision of Liz Francis, Records Archivist.

This collection was previously processed by Dave Nathan. On transfer to DCA, Elizabeth Mc Gorty rearranged some material in this collection. Items from the collection in the series titled Reports at the original NEMC archives, as well as additional material discovered that was not listed in Dave Nathan's Guide to the NEMC Archives, were added to the Subject files series (MS220.004). Collection and series description written by Dave Nathan was updated.

Processing status

This collection is processed and open for research

Repository Details

Part of the Tufts Archival Research Center Repository

35 Professors Row
Tisch Library Building
Tufts University
Medford Massachusetts 02155 United States