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  • Takes over the Special Assignment in 1917 and is appointed first Chief of the MGH Neurosurgical Service, 1933-1946.
  • A founder of minimally invasive neurosurgery, Dr. Mixter was the first to successfully treat hydrocephalus with endoscopic third ventriculostomy. (Boston Med. Surg. J. 188:277-8, 1923)
  • Dr. Mixter first recognized the importance of herniated intervertebral disks in causing nerve root and spinal cord compression syndromes. This led to the first successful discectomy in collaboration with Joseph Barr of the MGH orthopedic surgery service.

[extract dated 1983] Dr. William Jason Mixter was Chief of the Neurosurgical Service at MGH from its formal inception in 1939 until his retirement in 1940, and again during the war years, 1941-1946. Dr. Mixter grew up in Boston and on his family's farm in the Berkshires. He graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with an SB degree in Biology, and entered Harvard Medical School in 1902. After completing the one-year internship then required at MGFI, he joined his father and brother in private practice.

In 1915, Dr. Mixter went to France as a civilian surgeon and cared for the casualties of World I for two years before the United States joined the conflict. After a brief trip back to Boston, he returned to France, this time in uniform with an MGH unit. A year later he was transferred to England and was Commanding Officer of Base Hospital 204 at Hursley Park during the great influenza epidemic that broke out at the close of \Vorld War 1. During this period he proved his ability as an administrator, dealing as he did with difficult war-time problems.
Although he practiced general surgery until 1920. Dr. Mixter's interest in neurosurgery can be traced back to 1911, when he and his father were as signed two beds at MGH to try out the procedures being developed by Horsley and Cushing. Their success greatly exceeded expectations, and Dr. Mixter was named Chief of Neurosurgery in 1933.

In the ensuing years, he convinced the hospital trustees of the need for additional beds, better operating room facilities, and a neurosurgical resident. In 1939 a separate Neurosurgical Service was established with him as Chief.

Dr. Mixter retired in 1940, but resumed leadership of the Neurosurgical Service during World II, while his successor, Dr. James C. White, was on active duty in the Navy. At this time, Dr. Mixter also held the post of Senior Consultant in Neurosurgery to the Surgeon General of the Army.

Dr. Mixter was especially interested in the treatment of pain, the sympathetic nervous system, and the spinal cord. His best known work, done in conjunction with Dr. Joseph Barr of the Orthopedic Service, involved the problem of low backache with sciatic radiation.

A prolific author, Dr. Mixter wrote articles on a wide range of medical topics. In 1934 he and Dr. Barr coauthored the first paper defining the syndrome of intervertebral disc protrusion. This paper is still considered a classic. In addition, he coauthored, with Walter Dandy and Max Peet, sections on neurosurgery for Dean Lewis's Practice of Surgery and coauthored, with Dr. George Cheever Shattuck, a Handbook of Health for Overseas Service.

Dr. Mixter was elected to the American Surgical Association in 1920 and was one of the original members of the Society of Neurological Surgeons. He belonged to many other medical societies and was also a member of the Corporation of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and served as a trustee of the Massachusetts General Hospital.

Over the 20 stars of his neurosurgical practice, Dr. Mixter trained 28 young men in the art and science of neurosurgery. Many went onto develop training programs of their own, thus spreading the experience they gained working with Dr. Mixter in the early days of neurosurgery at MGH.

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[ Pictures from the Mixter Library Collection, the semi-annual Resident Group Pictures series,
the "Early history and Neurosurgery to 1939" and/or from "A Short History and Alumni Record (1909 to 1983)" ]
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