Donato D. LaRossa, MD
1941 - 2014
One of Penn’s most beloved professors, Don LaRossa passed away peacefully on January 21, 2014 after a heroic battle with glioblastoma. Don was born in 1941 in Plainfield, NJ, attended Georgetown Medical School where he graduated AOA in 1967. He started his general surgery residency at Penn in 1967 and completed his chief residency year at Hershey Medical Center in 1972. He completed his plastic surgery residency at Penn in 1974, then spent two years in the army in Colorado where he started a cleft palate clinic. He was awarded an Army Commendation Medal, and rose to the rank of Major. He was recruited back to Penn in 1976 where he remained for the rest of his career, rising from Assistant to Full Professor of Surgery. He had a busy adult practice at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and a pediatric practice at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. He was Chief of Plastic Surgery at CHOP from 2001 – 2007, and retired from active practice in 2009. He was a charter member of ASRM and did some early work in microsurgical tissue transfer. He also had a large experience with tissue expansion for conjoined twins. He was best known for his many contributions to cleft surgery, publishing more than 76 papers and 22 book chapters, and he was an early proponent of multidisciplinary cleft care. He was Director of the CHOP Cleft Palate Clinic from 1980 – 2001. He and Peter Randall popularized the CHOP modification of the Furlow Z-plasty palatoplasty and amassed the largest published experience in the United States. He had many leadership roles in the ACPA, and served as president in 2003. He posthumously received the ACPA Distinguished Service Award in 2014. He was active in international cleft care, including Operation Smile, Alliance for Smiles, and his favorite group Rotaplast where he served on the Board of Directors.
Don was admired by his trainees, his peers, and his patients for his outstanding clinical skills, his artistry as a surgeon and stone sculptor, his teaching ability, and his calm and reassuring demeanor, and in 2007 the Don LaRossa Teaching Award was established in his honor.
Don was often described as the consummate gentleman. He was a loving husband, father, and grandfather, and his ability to balance his professional and family life was a wonderful example to his residents and fellows. His first wife Virginia passed away in 2003. His middle daughter Wendy passed away in 2007. Don married Anne Congdon in 2010. He is survived by his wife Anne, 2 siblings, 2 daughters Vicki and Nicole, 4 stepchildren, and 17 grandchildren. He was the finest human being I have ever known.
David W. Low, MD