Paul Francis Wehrle

BMJ 2004; 328 doi: (Published 24 June 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;328:1569

Paediatrician and researcher who gained an international reputation for diagnosing and developing treatments for polio and smallpox

Before Paul Francis Wehrle joined the University of Southern California (USC) department of paediatrics as its chairman in 1961, academic research was a relatively low priority for a staff focused on delivering an average of 40-50 babies per day. Operating on a longstanding apprentice system of doctors, fitting volunteer teaching rounds in between attending to their patients, the department of paediatrics boasted a strong team of clinicians but little impetus for research.

But during his tenure as chairman of USC's department of paediatrics from 1961 to 1988, Wehrle, a paediatrician and expert on infectious and communicable diseases, not only oversaw the running of the busy county hospital, but transformed it into a well respected centre for medical research.

“When Professor Wehrle first arrived, USC didn't have much of an academic reputation,” said Professor Joan Hodgman, who has been on the faculty of USC's paediatrics department since 1948 and was a close colleague of Wehrle's. “He would travel all over the world waving the …

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