James Mithoefer was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, on March 5, 1914, the son of Dr. William and Florence (Shanks) Mithoefer. He attended Mercersburg Academy in Pennsylvania, Miami University in Ohio, and received his medical education at the Harvard Medical School, from which he graduated in 1940. Following a rotating internship at the Cincinnati General Hospital, Dr. Mithoefer was appointed to the residency program in surgery, and had two years as assistant resident before his training was interrupted by World War II.
The next three years were spent in Africa, in England and finally at the Plastic Surgical Center of Wakeman General Hospital in Indiana. Subsequent to his discharge from the military service, he
returned to Cincinnati for one more year as assistant resident and the final year as chief resident surgeon. Thereafter, he entered practice in the city of his birth.
In 1950, Bassett Healthcare was in need of another general surgeon, one with an interest in orthopedics and plastic surgery. Dr. Mithoefer applied for the position, received the appointment, spent nine months on the Orthopedic Service at the Presbyterian Hospital in New York in preparation, and assumed his new post late in 1950. Simultaneously, he became Assistant and later Associate Clinical Professor of Surgery at Columbia.
At Bassett, Dr. Mithoefer devoted his professional energies to the development of an Orthopedic and Plastic Service, to teaching, to the establishment of a Tumor Registry and to investigation. His important contributions to surgical knowledge were in the fields of hepatic function, geriatric surgery and transplantation. In May of 1962, he was granted a leave of absence for one year to study plastic surgery in Galveston, Texas, and returned to Bassett thereafter with extensive plans to expand this field of surgery in central New York. Unfortunately, he did not live to bring these plans to fruition.
On July 27, 1963, while taking down some vines from his house, he disturbed a nest of yellow jackets and sustained multiple stings on the head, neck, shoulders, arms, and hands. He initially had only local discomfort, then asked to be driven to the hospital and reached the Emergency Department in serious condition approximately 20 minutes after being stung. Despite strenuous efforts by the Surgical, Medical and Anesthesiology staffs, he was unable to be resuscitated. His wife, Margaret, two sons, James Palmer and Peter, two daughters, Margaret and Martha, his mother, one brother, two sisters, one half-brother and one half-sister survived him.
Dr. Mithoefer was a member of the county and State Medical Societies, the American Medical Association, the American Board of Surgery, the American College of Surgeons, the American Association for the Surgery of Trauma, the Central New York Surgical Society, the Mont Reid Surgical Society and the Halsted Society.
James Mithoefer was an experienced and able technical surgeon, a capable clinician, a stimulating teacher with an inquiring mind and a desire to extend the boundaries of surgical knowledge to improve the welfare of mankind. His outside interests were many; his home, his family, his church, field trials, gunning and fishing, in all of which he participated actively and successfully.
His family has memorialized him through the Robert Keeler Foundation by providing the funding needed to launch the Center for Rural Surgery.