Our AVAS Heritage

Edward Passaro, Jr., M.D.


Dr. Passaro was born in Newark, New Jersey, earned his undergraduate degree at New York University, graduated medical school from the University of Rochester, and interned at Kings County Hospital. He went on to a surgical residency at Ohio State University and under the tutelage of Dr. Zollinger and the surgical staff at OSU, developed a life long interest in peptic ulcer disease. In 1961, he moved to UCLA and the Wadsworth VA Medical Center to study under Dr. Morton Grossman, who at that time was one of the leading physiologists in the nation. After joining the staff in 1963 after two years with Dr. Grossman, he worked his way up the academic ladder to become Professor of Surgery and Chief of Surgery at the Wadsworth VAMC in 1976, a position he held for twenty-one years. Dr. Passaro was known for his down-to-earth philosophy and straight forward approach to clinical problems. The Surgical Service at the Wadsworth VA although stressing clinical surgery, also produced a long list of academic surgeons with Dr. Passaro as their mentor. Later in his career, he learned molecular biology and established a laboratory to investigate the gene associated with Zollinger-Ellison Syndrome. Dr. Passaro was an officer of the AVAS having been the Recorder at the 2nd annual symposium in 1978 and the sixth President of our organization in 1983. He enthusiastically promoted scholarship, mentorship and collegiality through his dedication to the AVAS.

Ralph G. DePalma, M.D.


Dr. DePalma received his medical degree with honors from New York University College of Medicine and completed surgical residency and vascular training at the University Hospitals in Cleveland. He served in the United States Air force as a flight surgeon in Strategic Air Command and as Chief of Surgery at the 4973rd USAF Hospital, Spain. He has held many leadership positions in American Surgery including Professor of Surgery at Case Western Reserve University, Chief of Surgery at the University of Nevada, School of Medicine, Chair of Surgery at George Washington University, Associate Dean at the university of Nevada, and Chief of Surgery at the VA Sierra Nevada Health System. He served as Principal Investigator for VA CSP 410 Iron and Atherosclerosis, leading several substudies on biomarkers and outcome analyses based on randomization variables. He previously served as National Director, Surgical Services for Medical/Surgical Services, Office of the Patient Care Services in the Veterans Health Administration at Veterans Administration Central Office in Washington, DC 2000-2008 and Director of Transplant Services from 2005-2010. He is currently Special Operations Officer in VA Office of Research and Development. He has authored or co-authored 300 publications and edited five books on vascular disease. A regular attendee at the annual AVAS meeting, Dr. DePalma held leadership positions within our organization and often asked direct and thought provoking questions to our presenters and panel discussants.

Julie Ann Freischlag, M.D.


Dr. Freischlag received her M.D. from Rush University after receiving her Bachelor of Science from the University of Illinois. She next completed her surgical residency and fellowship at the University of California at Los Angeles. .Following initial academic appointments at the University of California at San Diego from 1987- 1989 and then the University of California Los Angeles from 1989-1992, she became Vice Chair of the Section of Vascular Surgery at the University of Wisconsin and Chief of the Section of Vascular Surgery at the Zablocki VA from 1992-1996. In 1996 she was the Chief of Surgery at the Zablocki VA from 1996-1998. In 1998, she was recruited back to UCLA where she was the Chief of Vascular Surgery at the UCLA Medical Center. In 2003, she was appointed Professor and Chair of of the Surgery Department and Surgeon-in-chief at Johns Hopkins until 2013 when she became Vice Chancellor for Human Health Sciences and Dean of the School of Medicine at the University of California Davis. Dr. Freischlag was very active in the AVAS where she held many leadership positions including the first woman president of our organization in 1999-2000. Dr. Freischlag is one of the most prominent leaders among nation’s academic health centers. Dr. Freischlag is an international expert in the treatment of thoracic outlet syndrome.


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