Dr. Bookwalter was born and raised in Columbiana, Ohio. His mother was a nurse and his father and grandfather were physicians. After public school, he attended Amherst College and Harvard Medical School, followed by six years of surgical residency on The Harvard (Fifth) Surgical Service at the Boston City Hospital and two years as a Major in the Army Medical Corps at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He returned to the New England Deaconess Hospital in Boston for a final year of cardiothoracic surgery and then moved to Brattleboro, Vermont, where he has practiced surgery since 1973. Subsequently, he rejoined the Army Reserves, ultimately achieving the rank of full Colonel.
Noted for his "humanistic" approach to patient care and his lifelong interest in disease prevention, Dr. Bookwalter is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons, The New England Vascular Society, and The New England Surgical Society. Widely recognized as an innovator in the field of modern surgery, Dr. Bookwalter is best known for inventing the “Bookwalter Retractor”, the most commonly used table fixed surgical retractor in use today.