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Passing of W. Allen Addison, MD, Professor Emeritus

Sunday, June 27, 2021
Dr. Allen Addison

Duke Ob/Gyn Chair Matthew D. Barber, MD, MHS, announced today that Professor Emeritus Winnifred Allen “Al” Addison, MD, died yesterday, June 26, 2021 at the age of 87.

Dr. Addison, a nationally recognized Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgeon with lifelong ties to Duke, was an innovator in the sub-specialty of urogynecology and a mentor to many, including me. A consummate physician, surgeon and teacher, he was a true giant in the field of women’s healthcare and instrumental in the training of many future ob/gyn physicians during his many years at Duke.

Dr. Addison began his education at Duke in 1952 as an undergraduate student and majored in zoology. He then pursued a PhD in anatomy under the mentorship of Joseph E. Markee, PhD, who was then Chairman of the Department of Anatomy and Assistant Dean for Admissions of Duke University School of Medicine. After one year in the program, Dr. Addison realized that his real passion was in medicine and not in research, and he was admitted as a second-year MD student at the Duke University School of Medicine.

Dr. Addison met his wife, Sally, who earned her BSN at Duke in 1960, on the Osler Ward at Duke University Hospital. He was a junior medical student, and Sally was a junior nursing student at Duke University School of Nursing. “We were both taking care of the same patient on the internal medicine ward,” said Sally Addison. The couple married in 1959, while they were both senior students at Duke, and they recently celebrated their 61st wedding anniversary.

After graduating from the School of Medicine, Dr. Addison went on to do an internship at the Medical College of Georgia. Dr. Addison came back to Duke for a fellowship in reproductive endocrinology with E. C. Hamblen, MD, founder and Emeritus Director of the Division of Endocrinology, who was known as a groundbreaking researcher in the field.

Dr. Addison planned to go back to Georgia to do his residency in gynecology, but then the Cuban Missile Crisis began. “A lot of house staff got drafted, and I was asked to take night calls while still a fellow. So, I never officially applied for the residency. They just kept me in it,” noted Dr. Addison in a recent Duke University School of Medicine article.

In 1965, Dr. Addison was called to active duty in the military and served for two years as an obstetrics and gynecology physician at Martin Army Hospital in Fort Benning, Georgia. After his army service, he spent a year as a faculty member at Emory University Medical Center. He then went into private practice in his hometown in Georgia, where he was the only obstetrician and gynecologist in the clinic.

In the early 1970s, Dr. Addison returned to Duke and joined the School of Medicine faculty after a fellowship in gynecologic oncology. He then became Director of the Division of Gynecologic Specialties and served as Coordinator of the Duke Ob/Gyn residency program for many years. Along with Dr. Richard Bump, he founded the fellowship program in Urogynecology, now called Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery.

As a renowned surgical innovator, his surgical outcome research helped advance the field and refine procedures such as the sacrocolpopexy, which is a mainstay in pelvic reconstructive surgery today. Dr. Addison served as President of the Society of Gynecologic Surgeons from 1994-1995. Because of his contributions he was honored with the Walter L. Thomas Distinguished Professorship in 1994. 

In 2004, Dr. Addison retired from Duke after more than 30 years of service and became Emeritus Faculty as the Walter L. Thomas Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Obstetrics and Gynecology. In honor of Dr. Addison’s distinguished career as a physician, teacher and mentor, Duke alumni and friends established the W. Allen Addison, MD, Professorship Endowment Fund in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology in 2015.

Memorial service information will be provided when it becomes available. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the W. Allen Addison, MD, Professorship Endowment Fund at Duke University

Checks may be mailed to: 

Alumni & Development Records, Attn: Jillian Ream

Duke University, Box 90581

Durham, NC 27708-0581