Vanderbilt Magazine

Alice Hackney Altstatt, MA’52, MD’56: Academic Anesthesiologist

Altstatt in 1952 (Eskind Biomedical Library)

Alice Hackney Altstatt of Finksburg, Maryland, died Jan. 10. She was 95.

Ally Lou, as she was called by family and friends, attended Garrison Forest School, earned her undergraduate degree in biology at Bryn Mawr and entered Vanderbilt for graduate study of microbiology. After earning her master’s degree in microbiology, a vacancy opened in the medical school, and she was invited by the dean to join the class. She met her future husband, Leslie B. Altstatt, MD’56, in medical school when they were paired as laboratory partners.

She completed her residency in anesthesiology at the University of California, San Francisco, and Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu, Hawaii. She joined the faculty of George Washington University School of Medicine in 1964 as a professor of anesthesiology. She was chief of Obstetric Anesthesiology and was secretary of the Society of Obstetric Anesthesiology and Perinatology until her retirement from GW in 1989.

Altstatt worked as an anesthesiologist in Thailand several times. When her husband, an Army officer and medical researcher with the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization laboratory, was stationed in Bangkok, Thailand, from 1969 to 1972, she spent one year as a clinical anesthesiologist with the U.S. Army’s 5th Field Hospital. After retiring from GW she served as a volunteer for two lengthy humanitarian medical missions as part of a surgical team with the International Committee of the Red Cross in the Khao I Dang Refugee Camp on the Thai-Cambodian border.

In addition to her full-time career in academic anesthesiology, she raised six children, including two sets of fraternal twins. Her ability to establish herself in a competitive profession and manage a dynamic household is attributed to her stellar organizational skills.

Altstatt was an amateur naturalist and a generous benefactor to numerous animal welfare organizations. In retirement she raised and showed champion African Basenjis and was an active member of the Mid-Atlantic Basenji Club. In addition to champion dogs, she owned several champion Morgan horses that competed at national and international levels. In later years she built a house on family property in Maryland, spending the last 16 years of her life on the same land she had loved and roamed in her youth.

She is survived by her brother, six children and four grandchildren.