W. Sterling Edwards, M.D.
W. Sterling Edwards (1920-2004) was born into a Birmingham, Alabama medical family on July 23, 1920. After high school, he entered the Virginia Military Institute as a premedical student and graduated in 1942. In 1945, Edwards received his M.D. from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. Dr. Edwards completed his internship at Massachusetts General Hospital (1945-1946) and his residency in Surgery at the same institution (1948-1952), serving with the United States Army Medical Corps between his internship and residency. Following a fellowship in Cardiovascular Physiology at Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, Dr. Edwards returned to Alabama as a faculty member at the Medical College of Alabama. During his 17 years at the school, Dr. Edwards built an animal laboratory in which he conducted extensive cardiovascular research and where he developed the first synthetic artery. Although his achievements in research were significant, he took special pride in his teaching abilities.
In the late 1960s, Dr. Edwards decided to leave Alabama for a faculty position at the newly founded University of New Mexico Department of Surgery. He arrived in Albuquerque, New Mexico with his wife, Ann Dudley Edwards, and their family in September, 1969. During his first five years at the University of New Mexico, Dr. Edwards focused on building a heart program within the Department of Surgery. Incorporating local doctors into the teaching format, Edwards formed ties between the department and the surgical community. In 1974 Dr. Edwards accepted the position of Chairman of the Department of Surgery, becoming the third chair in departmental history. During his tenure, Dr. Edwards placed an emphasis on the development of the surgery residency program and oversaw the establishment of numerous surgical sub-specialties. Dr. Edwards ended his thirteen year career as Surgery Chairman when he retired in 1987.
After retirement, Dr. Edwards entered a new phase in his medical career. Noticing how uncomfortable and helpless most doctors, himself included, were when dealing with terminally ill patients, Dr. Edwards began one-on-one counseling with patients who were dying and their families. After consulting with the physician of record, Dr. Edwards would discuss the medical condition and treatment with the patient using non-medical terms. Additionally, he would act as an interpreter by asking the physician questions on behalf of the patient, who was either unable or too embarrassed to ask directly. Dr. Edwards also was active with the Albuquerque Center for Attitudinal Healing. In 1998, Dr. Edwards and his family established the Edwards Family Endowment with the University of New Mexico School of Medicine that would allocate $20, 000 for approved projects pertaining to the enhancement of communication skills for the medical school community.
In 1997, Dr. W. Sterling Edwards was honored for his commitment to the University of New Mexico School of Medicine with the W. Sterling Edwards Endowed Professorship of Surgery. Dr. Edwards resided with his family in Albuquerque, New Mexico until his death on June 28, 2004 at the age of 84. On August 11, 2004, the Multimodality Imaging Laboratory at the University of Alabama-Birmingham was dedicated in the memory of W. Sterling Edwards, M.D.
From the guide to the W. Sterling Edwards Oral History, 1994, (New Mexico Health Historical Collection, UNM Health Sciences Library and Informatics Center.)