Walter J. McCarthy III, MD, received all of his surgical training, including a vascular fellowship (1983–1985) at Northwestern University. He then served on the faculty at Northwestern for 13 years, in practice with his mentors John Bergan, James Yao, William Flinn and William Pearce. In 1998, Dr. McCarthy was recruited to be Chief of Vascular Surgery at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago by Dr. Hassan Najafi. At Rush he also became the director of the vascular fellowship and for three years served as the chairman of vascular surgery at Cook County Hospital. He was Acting Chairman of the Department of Cardiovascular-Thoracic Surgery (2010–2013) during which time he was named as the John Bent Professor of Surgery. In those years he established a baccalaureate level program at Rush to train vascular ultrasound technologists. He also was instrumental in founding a physician assistant training program at Rush, and he served as Medical Director of both of these health-sciences programs over many years.

Dr. McCarthy has a career-long interest in lower extremity ischemia and tibial bypass surgery and also the management of intermittent claudication. He also is particularly interested in treating diseases of the thoracic aorta, including thoraco-abdominal aneurysm repair and in the descending thoracic aorta to femoral bypass operation.

Dr. McCarthy was born on August 14, 1952 in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where his father, an engineer, was studying at the national laboratory. Dr. McCarthy was raised in Birmingham, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit, and graduated from Albion College (1974) in southern Michigan. After college, the rich surgical experience at Wayne State University Medical School in Detroit convinced him to select surgery as a career.

While at Northwestern, because of a growing interest in clinical outcomes research, Dr. McCarthy earned an MS degree in epidemiology from the Harvard School of Public Health. Around that time, he also served as secretary and then president (2006–2007) of the Midwestern Vascular Surgery Society. He has published more than 200 articles and book chapters along with three textbooks. Dr. McCarthy retired from clinical practice in 2022 and is currently Professor Emeritus at Rush, where an annual visiting professorship in his name was established that year.

Dr. McCarthy has always been interested in history, particularly of exploration, politics and military topics. He found that he shared this interest with Dr. Yao many years ago and thus was easily recruited to join the History Project Work Group in 2011.