Honoring the Legacy of Dr. Peter Mansfield, Former Seattle Children’s Chief of Surgery

In honor of the late Dr. Peter Mansfield, former Seattle Children’s Chief of Surgery, his wife, Jackie Mansfield, has established a fund directly benefitting the Invent at Seattle Children’s Postdoctoral Scholars Program (Invent@SC), which is an investment in training for early career scientists historically underrepresented in or excluded from biotech in the development of therapeutics for childhood conditions.

Jackie also generously donated memorabilia from Dr. Mansfield’s career at Seattle Children’s in the 1970s-1980s to be displayed at the hospital.

The memorabilia includes a letter from USSR thanking him for saving a boy’s life flown in from Georgia, Russia, papers he wrote about wanting to establish something similar to the Invent program during his career, his pediatric pacemaker prototypes, which were the first of their kind, and more.

On the Pulse sat down with Jackie to learn more about Dr. Mansfield, his career and why the Invent program would have meant so much to him.

“He was not just a heart surgeon,” Jackie said. “He was a very multi-faceted, fascinating man. He taught me how to fly fish. He not only developed the pacemakers, but he was always looking into new inventions. He was selected as a NASA scientist-astronaut. He was a star basketball and baseball player at Lincoln High School. He loved to travel, and he was a wonderful father and husband. He was a renaissance kind of man.”

Dr. Mansfield was born in Seattle on October 26, 1936. He loved to fix things and knew at age six he wanted to be a surgeon. He received his undergrad from Stanford, went on to graduate from Harvard Medical School in 1962, and then completed his surgical internship and residency at Massachusetts General Hospital and Boston Children’s Hospital, specializing in Cardiac and Pediatric surgery.

While at Harvard, he met Jackie who was attending Wellesley College, and they were married in 1963. He served 3 years in the National Heart Institute studying the effects of electrical stimulation on the heart and on individual cells. He also did research that doubled the life span of pacemakers. In 1967 he travelled to Texas and took part in the early testing of Scientists as Astronauts but resigned from the program to pursue the more traditional role of pediatric surgeon. Jackie said, “He told me he knew his heart was with saving children.”

He then returned to Boston to complete his training as Chief Resident in Cardiac and Pediatric surgery. In January 1971 he and his family moved to Seattle where Dr. Mansfield began his career at Seattle Children’s and ultimately became Chief of Surgery.

“He wanted to build our house 90 seconds from the hospital, and he did,” said Jackie. “He even built a special drawer in the nightstand to put his phone in so he could answer pages at night and not wake me up. Peter was the kind of dad that almost always came home for dinner, and he would hear about the kids’ day, and as soon as dinner was over he would go back to Children’s.”

In the 1980s he became Director of the Heart Center at Providence Hospital in Seattle and developed the Providence Scholar program for premedical students, where he selected two students each summer who wanted to go to medical school. He got all the doctors in each specialty to give them a one-week trial in each discipline. “It was slightly different than the Invent program, but had the same values at the core,” said Jackie. “His one regret was not establishing a lab for young doctors to explore scientific pursuits.”

Today, one of Dr. Mansfield’s first Providence Scholars now works at Seattle Children’s as Jackie’s grandchildren’s pediatrician. “It’s really come full circle,” Jackie said.

When asked why the Invent program would have meant so much to him, Jackie said, “Peter always recognized the importance of fostering a lifetime love of learning for young people, with a particular emphasis on science, engineering and medicine.”

Outside of his work at Seattle Children’s and Providence, Dr. Mansfield was an avid fly fisherman and fished all over the world. He was a member of the Men’s University Club, The Seattle Tennis Club, Broadmoor Golf Club and Thunderbird Golf Club. He was a Past President of the Seattle Surgical Society and traveled the world teaching his surgical techniques to other surgeons. He was a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons and a member of the Pacific Coast Surgical Association, the Samson Thoracic Surgical Society, the International Cardiovascular Society and the American Pediatric Surgical Association. His favorite pastime was spending vacations at his family ranch in Oregon.

Dr. Mansfield, 83, died at home surrounded by family on June 23, 2020, on his 57th wedding anniversary after a 13-year battle with leukemia.