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Obituary: Charles B. Anderson, former director of general surgery, 78

Helped establish university's esteemed transplantation program

by Kristina SauerweinNovember 14, 2016

Charles B. Anderson, MD, a former professor and director of the Division of General Surgery at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, died of congestive heart failure Monday, Nov. 7, 2016, at his home in St. Louis, surrounded by his daughters. He was 78.

A leader in the field of surgery, Anderson’s research and surgical expertise advanced the understanding of kidney transplantation and helped to establish the kidney transplantation program at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, where he served as general surgeon-in-chief.

He is widely respected for his work to combat organ rejection in kidney transplant patients He proposed pre-surgical blood transfusions from organ donors, which provided recipients with protective antibodies and immunosuppression. The scientific community considered the concept controversial when it was introduced in the early 1970s by Anderson and his associate, William T. Newton, MD, a former professor of surgery at the School of Medicine. However, it has since been accepted internationally.

Also during this time, Anderson and Newton established the pediatric kidney transplant program at St. Louis Children’s Hospital.

“Dr. Anderson was one of the pioneers in our department of surgery,” said Timothy J. Eberlein, MD, the Bixby Professor of Surgery and head of the Department of Surgery at the School of Medicine. “He developed the foundation for what has grown into one of the top transplant programs in the world.”

Additionally, Anderson and his colleague, Gregorio A. Sicard, MD, a professor emeritus of surgery, helped develop vascular surgery into a specialty. Anderson was among the first surgeons in the United States to be certified in vascular surgery by the American Board of Surgery.

“Dr. Anderson also was instrumental, with his close friend Dr. Sicard, in developing our vascular surgery service into a true specialty and leader in the field,” said Eberlein, also director of Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine. “Dr. Anderson was loved by residents and medical students for his teaching, mentorship and devotion to their well-being. He was a giant. He will be missed by all of us.”

Born in Clifton, N.J., in 1938, Anderson received his bachelor’s degree from Johns Hopkins University in 1958 and medical degree from Yale University in 1962. He completed an internship in surgery at then-Barnes Hospital, before serving as a medical officer in the U.S. Navy from 1963 to 1965.

Anderson also completed his surgical residency at Barnes Hospital. He joined the School of Medicine faculty in 1970 as an instructor of surgery. He was named full professor in 1979 and became director of the Division of General Surgery in 1984.

During his busy career, Anderson married Marilynn Virginia Wolf in 1967, and they raised three daughters together.

In the book “A Surgical Department of Distinction: 100 Years of Surgery at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis,” Anderson cited an understanding family as a key to being a successful surgeon: “You have to devote all your time to surgery, even if you’re married or have a family. Sometimes you have to get up at 3 a.m. and go to the hospital.”

His daughter Cheryl Anderson Colonnello said the demanding schedule did not bother her father. “He was a brilliant surgeon who never went to ‘work’ a day in his life because he loved what he did,” she said. “He had a great sense of humor and believed in paying it forward to help others. He had an extraordinary life, and the world is a better place because of him.”

Anderson, whose wife preceded him in death, is survived by his children, Kristin A. Redington (Jim), Cheryl A. Colonnello (Jamie) and Beth A. Stiska (Matt); and eight grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 17, at The Church of St. Michael and St. George, 6345 Wydown Blvd. in Clayton, Mo. A reception will follow immediately at the church.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made in Dr. Anderson’s name to the Anderson/Newton Lectureship, in care of The Foundation for Barnes-Jewish Hospital; 1001 Highlands Plaza Drive West, Suite 140; St. Louis, MO, 63110; or online at

Kristina covers pediatrics, surgery, medical education and student life. In 2020, she received a gold Robert G. Fenley Writing Award for general staff writing from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), and in 2019, she received the silver award. Kristina is an author and former reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the Los Angeles Times, where she was part of a team of journalists that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2004 for breaking news. Additionally, she covered the 2014 Ferguson unrest for TIME magazine and, for eight years, wrote a popular parenting column for