American Surgical Association Transactions

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1930 - 2019

Thomas K. Hunt, M.D., 1930 - 2019

We are deeply saddened to announce the passing of our friend and colleague, Dr. Thomas K. Hunt, Professor Emeritus of Surgery at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), who has died at the age of 88.

Thomas K. Hunt, MD was an internationally renowned and highly respected surgeon, professor and researcher. “TK” or “Papa Tom,” as he was known by colleagues and family, was a general surgeon at UCSF from 1964 until 2001. He was best known for helping develop the trauma unit at the San Francisco General Hospital and for his research on the cellular biology of wound healing. His easy-to-implement ideas shaped the standard of care for the prevention of infections after surgery.

After graduating from medical school in 1956, Dr. Hunt did his internship at Boston City Hospital under famed surgeon J. Englebert Dunphy MD, then was drafted into the US Army where he served as a medical officer. He followed Dunphy to the University of Oregon and completed his residency there in 1964; then did a yearlong research fellowship in Glasgow, Scotland, where he worked on methods to infuse hyperbaric oxygen into tissue to aid the healing of surgical wounds. Dr. Hunt joined the staff at UCSF in 1965, where he also became Director of the Wound Healing Laboratory in the Department of General Surgery and Vice Chairman for Research Affairs for the Department of Surgery. In addition, he was an adjunct professor of surgery at Ohio State University and a consulting surgeon at the University of Tübingen in Germany. He was also the founding President of the Wound Healing Society, served on the Board of Directors of the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society and as President of the American Trauma Society, and received countless honors from universities and organizations across the globe.

Dr. Hunt taught surgery in Southeast Asia for the James IV Association of Surgeons. While in Vietnam, the State Department appointed him Civilian Chief of Surgery for one Saigon hospital and he got out just weeks before the fall of the city. More importantly, patients knew Dr. Hunt as a compassionate and understanding physician with a calm and caring bedside manner. Colleagues often described him as brilliant, yet modest. Research was one of Dr. Hunt’s passions and he loved teaching residents and fellows in his lab at UCSF until he closed it in 2003. That laboratory produced more than 425 research papers, co-authored four books on the healing of wounds, and his works are cited in more than 20,000 publications according to Research Gate.

"Tom Hunt was a giant in the world of wound healing," said Annette Wysocki, past president of the Wound Healing Society. "Equally as important as the research and teaching that Tom did, was the way he provided mentorship and inclusivity to the next generation of junior postdocs, faculty and scholars." Dr. Thomas K. Hunt cast an immense shadow, one that will not be easily illuminated or soon forgotten.