Dr. Philip Alexander Caulfield, 78, a former chief of surgery and president of the board of trustees at Providence Hospital who was active in professional, church and service organizations, died of a heart ailment Dec. 2 at Holy Cross Hospital.

Dr. Caulfield, who lived in Chevy Chase, was a past president of the Catholic Youth Organization, the John Carroll Society, and the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick. He was a founder of the Merrick Boys Camp in Maryland and a parishioner of the Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church.

He was born in Johnstown, Pa. He graduated from Mount St. Mary's College in Emmitsburg, Md., and took his medical degree at Georgetown University in 1929. He established a medical practice in Washington in 1933 and continued it until his retirement in 1970.

From 1934 to 1960, Dr. Caulfield was a clinical professor of surgery at Georgetown University. He was on the staffs of Children's, Georgetown University, Suburban and Sibley Memorial hospitals and the Columbia Hospital for Women. He was a member of the D.C. Medical Society, the Washington Academy of Surgeons, the American College of Surgeons, the Sons of the American Revolution, and the Chevy Chase Club.

Since retiring from his medical practice, he had been chairman of the Universal Electric Co. in Johnstown, a family business.

Survivors include his wife, Grace Tumulty Caulfield, to whom he was married for 50 years, of Chevy Chase; two daughters, Ellen C. White of Virginia Beach, Va., and Alicia C. Brown of Washington; four sons, Dr. Philip A. Jr., of Burlingame, Calif., Dr. J. Patrick, of Kensington, James A., of Chevy Chase, and Thomas W., of Denver; a sister, Anne Marie Matan of Rehoboth Beach, Del.; a brother, the Rev. Thomas W., of Emmitsburg, and 16 grandchildren.