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Dr. LouiseSchnaufer

Year of Birth / Death

b. 1925

Medical School

Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania



Career Path

Surgery: Pediatric
Dr. LouiseSchnaufer


Dr. Louise Schnaufer helped establish the first pediatric surgical unit at Johns Hopkins Hospital.


I had always been interested in science as a child and in high school in the early 1940s, but I had never known that women could become doctors. In college there were three premed students in my class and I realized then that I had discovered what I wanted to do.


Dr. Louise Schnaufer held a career full of excitement and innovation as a pediatric surgeon for more than 50 years. In 2001 she traveled to the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda with the Doctors On Call for Service Foundation (DOCS), to train surgeons in her specialist skills. She described the trip as the most exciting thing she has ever done.

Louise Schnaufer was born in 1925 in Towson, Maryland. She attended the Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania and graduated with her M.D. degree in 1951. She completed a surgical residency at Union Memorial Hospital in Baltimore in 1955, and a residency in pediatric surgery with Dr. C. Everett Koop, (who later served as U.S. Surgeon General). Dr. Schnaufer joined Johns Hopkins Hospital in 1960, and in 1963, she helped establish the first pediatric surgical unit at the hospital. She was also part of the pediatric staff at Union Memorial Hospital and Greater Baltimore Medical Center.

In 1971, Dr. Koop asked Dr. Schnaufer to join the staff of the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, where he was surgeon-in-chief. She accepted, and became a close assistant to Koop, whom she described as "the forefather of pediatric of the best surgeons I've ever seen." Together they performed a series of challenging operations to separate conjoined twins in the 1970s.

In 1999 she was the pediatric surgeon on the team that succeeded in giving separate lives to conjoined 9-month-old twin girls from Poland. As a senior surgeon at Children's Hospital, Dr. Schnaufer was honored with the Arnold M. Salzberg Award by the American Academy of Pediatrics. The award recognizes outstanding mentorship of pediatric surgical trainees, and was given in 1999 to honor her commitment to the education of surgical trainees at Children's Hospital. In 1992, the University of Pennsylvania honored her with the Residents' Faculty Teaching Award, and that same year her alma mater, Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania, presented her with its Alumnae Achievement Award. Dr. Schnaufer was a fellow of the American College of Surgeons, a surgical fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and a member of the American Pediatric Surgical Association. Children's Hospital of Pennsylvania has commemorated her thirty years of service by establishing the Louise Schnaufer Pediatric Surgery Fellowship.

Question and Answer

What was my biggest obstacle?

It was trying to get into medical school. At that time the schools were taking only one token woman for each class. I was very fortunate to be accepted at the Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania.

Who was my mentor?

Dr. C. Everett Koop, who trained me in pediatric surgery, and then ten years later asked me to return to the Children's Hospital of Pennsylvania as a staff member.