Wataru W. Sutow, MD papers

Identity elements

Reference code

MS 035

Level of description



Wataru W. Sutow, MD papers


  • 1929-1996 (Creation)


43 cubic feet (86 boxes, including 1 oversize box)

Name of creator


Biographical history

Watauru W. Sutow, MD, is known for his work in pediatric oncology and for his pediatric studies with the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission. Sutow was born August 31, 1912 and died December 20, 1981. Sutow was a pioneer in defining and establishing pediatric oncology as a specialty and chemotheraphy as a viable adjunct or alternative to radiotherapy and surgery for the treatment of cancer. During the late 1940s and early 1950s, Sutow directed a pediatric research team for the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission. He later joined the University of Texas' M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. As a collaborator with the Brookhaven National Labratory, he conducted extensive research on the effects of radiation fallout on Marshall islanders.

Wataru "Wat" Walter Sutow was born August 31, 1912 in Guadalupe, California in the United States of America to Yasaku and Yoshi Sutow. He father was born in Fukushima, Japan, in 1868 and came to the Unites States in 1905. His mother, also of Fukushima, Japan, was born there in 1878, and migrated to the U.S. in 1911.

Wataru Sutow married Mary H. Korenaga in Guadalupe, California, in early September 1937. Mary was born May 28 1914, in Montrose, California. He attended the Stanford University School of Medicine from 1939-1942. As a result of the U.S. government's policy during World War II calling for imprisonment and revocation of civil rights for people of Japanese descent, Sutow was unable to finish his medical studies for most of the war. His family was forcibly relocated to Salt Lake City. He finally was able to complete his medical degree in 1945 at the age of 33. He earned his MD from the University of Utah College of Medicine.

The Sutows had two daughters while they resided in Salt Lake City, Ollie Ellen on October 3, 1942, and Chiyono Jean on September 14, 1946. Sutow completed his internship at Salt Lake City General Hostpital 1945-1946 and residency in the Departmnet of Pediatrics at the University of Utah 1946-1947. He obtained his license to practice medicine from the State of Utah on July 1, 1946; the State of California on September 24, 1947; and from the State of Texas on December 3, 1945.

Following the decision to use atomic weapons against Japan at the end of World War II in August of 1945, the United States government decided to study the immediate and long-term effects of ionized radiation on humans. Sutow was invited to help organize the pediatric portion of the studies by the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission (ABCC) in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Sutows left Salt Lake City in 1947 and were in Japan by 1948. During Sutow's first stint with the ABCC, he served as civilian head of the Pediatric Department. On January 16, 1950 they had their third and last child, a son named Edmund Keith who was born at Osaka General Hospital.

In 1950, the Sutow family returned to the United States. Sutow became a fellow at Stanford University where he worked with Dr. John Anderson. As a result of the Korean War, which began in June 1950, Sutow began serving in the U.S. Army in 1951 with the rank of Captain in the U.S. Army Medical Corps. He received his officer training in San Antonio and was assigned to the Far East Command. In that position, he again worked with the ABCC in 1953-1954 as Director of Pediatric Research doing the same job he earlier had done as a civilan.

Sutow was drawn to the Texas Medical Center through his working relationship with Dr. H. Grant Taylor, a former director of the ABCC. Taylor was the Professor of Pediatrics and Chief of the Section of Pediatrics of the University of Texas (UT) M.D. Anderson Hospital (MDAH) in 1954. Taylor recruited Sutow who joined MDAH pediatrics in 1954. Sutow served as assistant and associate pediatrician and associate professor of pediatrics until 1969 when he became pediatrician and Professor of Pediatrics. He was acting head of the department of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine from 1954-1978. From 1957 on, his association as research collaborator with Brookhaven National Laboratory allowed him to continue and elaborate on his reseawrch on long-term radiation effects including his study of Japanese infants who had experienced in utero exposure to atomic bomb fallout. Aside from the study of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki popultations, he was also involved in the ongoing study of the effects of the exposure of Marshall Islanders to radiation fallout in 1954.

In March 1954, the United States conducted the Castle Bravo shot on the Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands. The Bravo shot was the first code name of the first test of a dry fuel hydrogenn bomb detonated in the atomosphere. Due to unexpected weather patterns, the fallout fell on residents of Rongelap and Utirik atolls in the Marshall Islands. Source: Castle Bravo (April 29, 2015); Wikipedia; retrieved April 30, 2015 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Castle_Bravo.

While at MDAH, Sutow organized inter-institutional groups, such as the Southwest Cancer Chemotheraphy Study Group for which he chaired the Pediatric Division 1957-1969. He chaired the Childhood Solid Tumor Committee from 1969-1976. He was a member of the Pediatric Executive Committee of hte Southwest Oncology Group from 1972-1979. He was a member of hte National Wilms' Tumor Study Committee from 1967 and a member of the Executive Committee, Section of Oncology and Hematology, American Academy of Pediatrics, 1975-1978.

When Sutow joined the MDAH Pediatric Section, it consisted of four beds. In Sutow's obituary, which ran in the December 22, 1981 edition of the Houston Post, Dr. Charles A. LeMaistre, president of the UT System Cancer Center, praised Sutow for innovations in treating cancer. "Popular opinion at that time (1954) was skeptical of hte value of drugs in treating cancer, but ... Sutow's regimens for treatment of osteosarcoma (bone cancer) produced some of the most dramatic results ever achieved in pediatric oncology." LeMaistre said. Dr. Jan van Eys stated in the May-June 1982 edition of "The Cancer Bulletin" that Sutow's legacy was that "pediatric oncology addresses the child with cancer, not the cancer in the child ... [Sutow's] ultimate aim was the cured childen, not the cure ... he gave them complete life, not permanent dependency."

In addition to his research and medical practice, Sutow served as an editor or sat on editorial boards for numerous cancer-related publications. He published more than 250 journal articles, contributed to cancer and pediatric textbooks, and published a cancer reference bibliography, a textbook and a book on malignant solid tumor of children.

He was member and a fellow of numerous medical organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Association for Cancer Research, the American Medical Association and numerous other organizations.

In his personal life, he was an avid conchologist, which is the study of mollusc shells, and a devoted student of philately, which is the study of stamps and postal history.

Content and structure elements

Scope and content

Watauru W. Sutow, MD papers, MS 035, primarily cover the professional life of Dr. Sutow. The collection contains correspondence and memorandum, committee minutes and reports, drafts, manuscripts, and published professional papers; journal article reprints, personal correspondence and memorabilia; and a collection of slides and audio cassette tapes. The collection is in good condition. The papers span the years 1929-1996 with the bulk of material ranging from 1948 to 1981. The collection consists of 43 cubic feet (86 boxes, including 1 oversize box).

System of arrangement

This collection is arranged into the following series.
Series I: Biographical and Personal; 1965-1981
Series II: Meetings Attended, 1955-1981
Series III: Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission (ABCC), 1948-1958
Series IV: M.D. Anderson Hospital (MDAH), 1953-1981
Series V: Marshall Islands Studies/Brookhaven National Laboratory, 1950-1980
Series VI: Southwest Oncology Group (SWOOG), 1956-1979
Series VII: Audio Cassette Tapes, 1971-1977
Series VIII: Sympathy cards, letters, faxgrams, mailgrams, telegrams, obituaries, 1981-1982
Series IX: Professional – Marshall Islands Studies, Brookhaven National Laboratory, Publications, 1929-1981
Series X: Correspondence, 1949-1997
Series XI: Oversize, 1947-1996
Series XII: Addendum – Slides, continuation of Series V – Marshall Islands Studied/Brookhaven National Laboratory, 1950-1980.
Note: Series XII is in large part a continuation of Series V.

Conditions of access and use elements

Conditions governing access

Some material in this collection is restricted because of patient records. Consult with an archivist for more information.

Physical access

Technical access

Conditions governing reproduction

Most of the material in this collection is open for research. Some restrictions may apply, especially sensitive patient records.

Languages of the material

Scripts of the material

Language and script notes

Finding aids

Generated finding aid

Acquisition and appraisal elements

Custodial history

Immediate source of acquisition

Mary Sutow, the widow of Dr. Sutow, donated the materials. She donated the bulk of the papers following his death in 1981 and subsequent papers in December 1997 through May 1998.

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling information


No accruals are expected for this collection.

Related materials elements

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

Related archival materials

Related descriptions

Notes element

Specialized notes

  • Citation: Wataru W. Sutow, MD papers, MS 035; John P. McGovern Historical Collections and Research Center, Houston Academy of Medicine-Texas Medical Center Library. Please cite the box and folder numbers where appropriate.
  • Processing information: The Archives received material in this collection in small lots spread over a number of years. In 2014-2015, the original finding was converted to EAD. In that process the collection boxes were renumbered sequentially from the first box to the last box. The collection was originally numbered sequentially through a series and then the numbering system restarted. This system proved unwieldy for many reasons, most of which were administrative. The original order of the series, boxes and folders were kept in the revised finding aid, except for several boxes that were misplaced. Those boxes were located after the finding aid was completed and were integrated back into the collection as an addendum series.
  • Processing information: The additional records to Dr. Sutow's Collection are primarily personal. The correspondence express concern about his death and sympathy upon his death. There is an assortment of documents from his undergraduate education to awards he was granted later in his career. Also, there are a number of publication both in English and Japanese. Where possible I have provided the English translation and Romaji (Romanized Japanese) citation. e.g. Included are the first Japanese editiona and English edition of "Hiroshima Diary." These were gifts from the author Dr. Michihiko Hachiya to Dr. Sutow. Since our computers [in 1998] are not yet equipped with the necessary language chip, I decided this form of notation would prove most useful to our researchers. Dr. Sutow's Collection included the addition of a limited number of photographs. Those accompanying correspondence were left with the respective documents for continuity. This is noted in the inventory. All other photographs have been removed. They will be housed and will be cataloged separately. [Archivist's note: See the library's online catalog to find additional photographs from the Sutow collection. Ask an archivist for additional information.]

Alternative identifier(s)



Description control element

Rules or conventions

Finding aid based on DACS ( Describing Archives: A Content Standard).

Sources used

Archivist's note

Archivist's note

JoAnn Pospisil created the original finding aid in 1995.

Archivist's note

Revised by Margaret A. Irwin creating an addendum in 1998.

Archivist's note

Revised by Sonia Lavilla in 2014 and 2015.

Access points

Genre access points

Accession area