Delbert Werden Dies; S.D. Neurosurgery Pioneer

March 12, 1986|SEBASTIAN DORTCH | Times Staff Writer

Delbert H. Werden, who charted unexplored territory when he brought neurosurgery to San Diego County more than 50 years ago, has died of a stroke. He was 81.

The Los Angeles native studied at UCLA and obtained his medical degree from Loma Linda University in 1930. Werden completed his residency training at Los Angeles County General Hospital (now County-USC Medical Center).

"We decided to come to San Diego in 1934," said his wife of 56 years, Ruby Elizabeth Werden. "When we came San Diego there were no neurosurgeons here."

Because neurosurgery was so new in the county, Werden was on call most of the time, his wife said. This didn't leave much time for raising their two children.

"He was a family man, but he had little time," she said. "When he came to San Diego he was the neurosurgeon for the entire county so it kept him going day and night."

He was a founding member of the Western Neurosurgical Society and a member of the San Diego County Medical Society, the California State Neurological Society and the American Medical Assn.

During World War II, Werden was a captain in the Navy, and was made a colonel in the Marine Corps, participating in the Guadalcanal and Okinawa campaigns.

Werden retired from medicine in 1966 after being stricken with arteriosclerosis, but kept active by working with the medical societies.

During his retirement, Mrs. Werden said, she and her husband acquired some land in El Cajon and started a mobile home park.

Dr. Marcus Bushard, who joined Werden's San Diego-based medical practice in 1952, said of his former partner, "You might say that superficially he was a relaxed man, but he was driving in his pursuit of excellence. Being the first to practice the specialty in the community, there were occasions where he was called anywhere in the county and also Imperial County for consultation by hospitals."

Werden died Friday at Grossmont Hospital.

In addition to his wife, Werden is survived by a son, Robert H. Werden of Selma, Ore.; a daughter, Nancy Amitin of Del Mar, and three grandchildren.

He was cremated and buried Monday at Alpine Cemetery. The family requests that memorial contributions be made to the American Heart Assn.

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