Harry Polsky ’66
2021 Alumni Award for Professional Achievement
About Harry Polsky, M.D., ’66
A well-respected surgeon, Dr. Harry S. Polsky ’66 devoted his career to the advancement of peripheral vascular surgery and helping thousands of patients return to living healthier lives. A pioneer in creating new models of surgery in the field, he introduced non-invasive operation techniques that were safer approaches to the early diagnosis and treatment of vascular disorders. Polsky practiced for 36 years before retiring in 2015. His life’s work as a surgeon has decreased incidence of stroke, loss of limb from arterial occlusive disease, and decreased mortality from venous complications.
“As a freshman, Harry’s intention was to become a doctor. From Ursinus to Jefferson Medical College, to earning the rank of Army Major, and later titled by his peers in the Philadelphia area as the “top doc” in peripheral vascular surgery, Harry’s exceptional career in medicine is worthy of the Alumni Award for Professional Achievement,” said Jack Gould ’66, who nominated his classmate for this prestigious recognition.
Polsky chose Ursinus because of the college’s strong pre-med program and its reputation of graduating students who were technically and mentally prepared for the rigors of earning a medical degree. He recalls arriving at Jefferson Medical College and thinking that he was better educated than most students in histology, embryology, and anatomy.
“My interest in surgery stemmed from my experience in the comparative anatomy and histology labs. Preparation for a career in surgery also grew from the foundation of deductive reasoning, critical thinking, time management, and multitasking that I obtained from Ursinus,” said Polsky, who earned an M.D. in 1970. As an undergraduate, he attributes Dr. Paul Wagner, his pre-med advisor and chair of the biology department, as being instrumental in his success at Ursinus and in helping him receive a four-year scholarship to Jefferson.
“My mentors challenged me and my classmates to excel in our science majors as well as become involved in various undergraduate societies. We were encouraged to pursue courses outside of our majors, extending our liberal arts experiences into the fields of government, literature, and languages,” said Polsky, who founded the Diagnostic Vascular Laboratory at Montgomery Hospital in Norristown, Pa.
Polsky served his country in the U.S. Army and gained valuable experience as a general surgeon with the rank of Major. He obtained his vascular training at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, TX, and was among the first group of surgeons in the United States to receive board certification in general vascular surgery.
In addition to a busy clinical practice, Polsky has held numerous positions at Montgomery Hospital including chair of the emergency department, president of the medical staff, member of the medical executive committee, associated director of the department of surgery, and chair of the department of surgery. His extensive expertise in the field includes carotid endarterectomies, thyroid surgery, thoracic and thoracoscopic procedures, arterial extremity bypass grafts, hernia repair, and laparoscopic procedures.
A first-generation college student, Polsky’s proudest day as a Bear was when his parents and grandparents watched him graduate.
“There is tremendous personal pride in being recognized by my alma mater for my accomplishments,” said Polsky, who still comes back to campus to attend lectures and has created an annual fund scholarship to support current Bears interested in a career in a health professions field. “The announcement of this award has given me the opportunity to pause and reflect on the 50 years of personal and professional life since graduation.”
Q&A with Harry Polsky M.D., ’66
How is winning an Ursinus Alumni Award significant for you personally and professionally?
There is tremendous personal pride in being recognized by my alma mater for my accomplishments. The announcement of this award has given me the opportunity to pause and reflect on the 50 years of personal and professional life since graduation.
How did Ursinus College prepare you for a career in surgery?
My mentors challenged me and my classmates to excel in our science majors as well as become involved in various undergraduate societies. We were encouraged to pursue courses outside our majors, extending our liberal arts experiences into the fields of government, literature and languages.
What has been your proudest contribution to your professional community?
My extensive training and experiences in peripheral vascular surgery allowed me to introduce new and contemporary concepts in the diagnosis and treatment of vascular disorders in my professional community. They included new surgical techniques as well as establishment of the first complete non-invasive diagnostic vascular laboratory in a community hospital in the Delaware Valley that was dedicated to the safe approach to the early diagnosis and treatment of vascular disorders. These innovation led to decreased incidence of stroke, loss of limb from arterial occlusive disease and decreased mortality from venous complications in our community.
What was your proudest UC moment?
My proudest moment was certainly my graduation ceremony which was witnessed by my parents and grandparents. None of them had been afforded a college education themselves but were delighted to be able to share this special event with me and take pride in the recognition of my scholastic achievements.