Alfred Jaretzki III was born in Greenwich, Connecticut on August 11, 1919. He attended Harvard College (AB 1941) and Harvard Medical School (MD 1944). Jaretzki began his career at Presbyterian Hospital in New York City as a Surgical Intern (1944-1948) and Resident (July 1948-June 1954). He had a career as a cardiothoracic surgeon in the Department of Surgery at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University, and at Presbyterian, Mary Imogene Bassett (MIBH), Bellevue, Delafield, and Harlem Hospitals.
Jaretzki collaborated with neurologists in the study and treatment of myasthenia gravis, a chronic autoimmune disease marked by muscular weakness. He wrote extensively about surgical thymectomy in treating the disease, advancing knowledge of thymus anatomy. Also noteworthy are his contributions in the field of vascular surgery in collaboration with Arthur Voorhees, with whom he worked in the bridging of arterial gaps in dogs with flexible tubes made from synthetic mesh.
Jaretzki was a member of the Myasthenia Gravis Foundation of America’s Medical/Scientific Advisory Board. After publishing “Death with Dignity—Passive Euthanasia. Guide to Physician Dealing with Dying Patients,” in the New York State Journal of Medicine (April 1976), Jaretzki joined the Board of Directors of Concern for Dying, a group supporting the practice of assisted suicide.
He also co-authored with Frederic P. Herter and Kenneth A. Forde, A Proud Heritage: An Informal History of Surgery at Columbia ([New York, N.Y.] : John Jones Surgical Society, 2003).
In 1992, Jaretzki retired and was named Professor Emeritus of Clinical Surgery, Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center. He died at age 94 on May 29, 2014.