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John W. Braasch, M.D., PH.D, 1922-2017

Dr. John William Braasch died peacefully on September 9th, 2017 at the age of 94. Born in Rochester, Minnesota on December 11, 1922, Dr. Braasch was the third child of Dr. William F. Braasch and Nellie Stinchfield Braasch. He was a graduate of Yale University (B.A. 1944), Harvard Medical School (M.D. 1946), the University of Illinois, College of Medicine (M.S. in Physiology 1948), and the University of Minnesota (Ph.D. in Surgery 1955). Dr. Braasch interned at St. Luke's Hospital from 1946-1947 before serving as a Captain in the U.S. Army from 1948-1950. He then completed his surgical residency at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN (1951-1955) where his father and grandfather had successful practices in urology and internal medicine. Years later he was to receive the Distinguished Alumni Award from the Mayo Clinic for his numerous contributions to the field of surgery.

He joined the staff of Minneapolis General and Northwestern Hospitals for two years before moving to Boston to accept a position on the surgical staff of Lahey Clinic in 1957. In those days, Lahey Clinic surgeons performed their surgical procedures at the New England Deaconess Hospital, the New England Baptist Hospital, and the Brooks Hospital while outpatient offices were located on nearby Commonwealth Avenue in Boston. It was not until 1980 that the Lahey Clinic staff moved into a newly built hospital in Burlington, MA.

It was during these formative years that Dr. Braasch established his reputation as a skilled surgeon and a dedicated educator. He developed an extensive national and international experience in the repair of biliary strictures and in 1970 performed the final stricture repair on Sir Anthony Eden (Lord Avon) which he later chronicled in 2003. Dr. Braasch was an early adopter of Longmire's and Traverso's pylorus preserving pancreaticoduodenectomy for periampullary carcinoma and chronic pancreatitis and had one of the largest experiences in the east with parietal cell vagotomy for peptic ulcer until effective medical treatment was introduced. He performed the first renal transplant for Lahey Clinic at the New England Deaconess Hospital and he wrote extensively on his experience in the diagnosis and treatment of segmental and lobar disease of the liver and biliary tree.

Dr. Braasch served as Chairman of General Surgery at Lahey Clinic from 1971-1983. In 1981 he founded the Lahey Clinic Gastric, Hepatobiliary and Pancreatic Surgical Fellowship Program which was one of only three in the nation at the time and which was responsible for training a significant percentage of a whole generation of HPB surgeons in the US. In 1993, he founded the Lahey Clinic General Surgery Residency Program and served as Program Director for many years. He held academic appointments as Assistant Professor of Surgery at both Harvard Medical School and Tufts University School of Medicine and authored numerous publications as well as several definitive textbooks in his sphere of interest. Among many other appointments, Dr. Braasch served as Director of the American Board of Surgery and President of both the New England Surgical Society and the Boston Surgical Society. Always a student with a thirst for knowledge, however, he took up voluntary research work in Lahey Clinic's Cell and Molecular Biology Laboratory upon his retirement in 1998.

While considered an extraordinarily skilled surgeon and mentor to countless physicians through the years, Dr. Braasch was a devoted family man with passions for tennis, bridge and gardening. He married Nancy King Braasch of Portland, Maine on March 21, 1946 and they raised four children together while spending 71 years as husband and wife until Nancy's death in March of 2017. Dr. Braasch established a legacy as a professional and a gentleman and will continue to inspire excellence in generations of individuals whom he touched.