American Surgical Association Transactions

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1932 - 2020

Donald S. Gann, M.D., 1932-2020

Dr. Donald Gann was born in Baltimore in 1932. Don actually never graduated from high school, leaving at the age of 16 to attend Dartmouth College, graduating magma cum laude. He attended medical school at Johns Hopkins. Don intended to be a physician scientist secondary to his interest in physiology. However, to quote Dr Gann, "I found out I was dexterous enough to do some unusually complicated things." Consequently, he considered pursuing Neurosurgery but ultimately chose General Surgery with an interest in Endocrine. He subsequently completed his surgical residency at Hopkins.

At age 36, Dr. Gann became the first Chair of a newly established Department of Biomedical Engineering at Case Western Reserve. In 1970, he returned to Hopkins and later established the new Division of Emergency Medicine. Don was recruited to Brown University in 1979 serving as the second academic Chair of Surgery in the new medical school. One of his lasting impacts was the creation of a division of surgical research in this fledgling academic department. Don returned to Baltimore in 1988 where he served a number of roles at the University of Maryland, including establishing the critical care fellowship.

While he was a talented clinician and administrator, Dr. Gann was first and foremost a scientist. He had a deep interest in the etiology of shock and his entire career was spent investigating multiple facets of this disease process. Upon returning to Maryland, Don partnered with Dr. Daniel Darlington, establishing Shock Therapeutics Biotechnologies Inc., a company focused on developing an antibody to treat the physiologic derangements of hemorrhagic shock.

Don was a Quaker with a kind and gentle soul, but he was also quite demanding of himself, his trainees, and his colleagues. He insisted on scientific rigor, crisp thought processes, and real dedication to investigation. As he aged, Don became physically frailer but never lost his dry, sharp wit or his zeal for science. He continued to attend professional meetings, walking with the aid of a large walking stick. He was an engaging human being in every sense, and we will miss him.