On November 11, 2001, The ARCHIVES, and pediatrics as a whole, lost a kind and gentle ally when Walter Tunnessen left us after a brief but valiant struggle with melanoma, a disease, given Walter's interest in dermatology, that he often warned his friends and coworkers about, admonishing them to stay out of the sun. In the end, this cancer caused us to lose one of the truly fine educators of our time.
Walt was a native of Pennsylvania and spent a good deal of his professional career in the northeast. Penn [University of Pennsylvania], The Johns Hopkins University, and SUNY-Syracuse [the State University of New York, Syracuse] were all blessed with his presence before his move to North Carolina. It was during his early faculty days at Penn that some of us were first introduced to Walt's many talents. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania Medical School, and, following his residency and a stint in the military, he was recruited by Dr Lewis Barness to run the nurseries at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. Dr Barness knew talent when he saw it, and lack of any formal training in neonatal-perinatal medicine was considered a minor impediment for Walt. Good people adapt quickly to the circumstances that surround them, and Walt certainly did, leaving behind a well-organized nursery when he headed off to Syracuse, where, as a member of the ambulatory division in the Department of Pediatrics at SUNY, he developed his interest in pediatric dermatology. He was highly skilled as a clinician, ran a diagnostic referral program, and was the pediatric rheumatologist for a broad geographic area. Most of all, however, Walt was a teacher. At Syracuse, and subsequently at Johns Hopkins, Penn, and the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Walt garnered every major teaching award. He was especially proud of those that came from the housestaff. As a residency program director, he influenced the lives of hundreds of trainees throughout the years, earning their lasting gratitude. One of Walt's residents summed up this aspect of Walt's career best in remarks prepared for his memorial service:
Stockman III JA. Walter W. Tunnessen, Jr, MD (1939-2001). Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2002;156(5):421. doi:10.1001/archpedi.156.5.421