Donald Stuart Gann

GannDonald Stuart Gann, 87, on February 3, 2020, of undetermined causes at his home in Brooklandville, Md. The son of Mark Gann, chief of surgery at Sinai Hospital, and Beatrice Gann, an educator, Don was born in Baltimore, Md., and raised on Eutaw Place and later in Catonsville, a community to the west of Baltimore along the city’s border. Don attended Baltimore Polytechnic Institute through eleventh grade, when he left high school to attend Dartmouth College at the age of 16. He graduated magna cum laude from Dartmouth in 1952, with a double major in physics and philosophy, and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. He earned his medical degree in 1956 from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. From 1956 to 1957, he completed a residency in surgery at Hopkins and an assistant residency in surgery at Union Memorial Hospital.

In 1960, Don married Gail Burgan, a nurse practitioner at the University of Maryland. From 1960 to 1962 he was an assistant resident in surgery at University Hospital, and chief resident in surgery from 1962 to 1963. In 1967, he became the first chair of the newly established Department of Biomedical Engineering at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio.

In 1970, he returned to Hopkins as a professor of biomedical engineering and associate professor of surgery, and four years later was appointed professor of emergency medicine and director of the Department of Emergency Medicine.

Don left Hopkins in 1979 for Brown University in Providence, R.I., to establish and chair the Department of Surgery. He had a second role as surgeon-in-chief at the Rhode Island Hospital, also in Providence.

Returning to Baltimore in 1988, he headed surgical critical care for the University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS) from 1992 to 2000. He was also chief of the trauma surgery and critical care sections, and chief of the section of endocrine surgery. He retired from UMMS in 2010.

Along with Dan Darlington, a physiologist, Don established Shock Therapeutics Biotechnologies Inc. to create and develop patented treatment for hemorrhagic shock. Dan shared a post-doc fellowship with Don and was given a faculty position in surgery by him at Hopkins which he held for 18 years. “He was very smart and very kind but very demanding,” Dan said of Don. “His thoughts were ‘Don’t shoot for the moon, but shoot for the stars, and then you can see how you can soar.’ He treated everyone equally. He wanted to learn as much as he possibly could.”

Don became a Quaker at a young age and was a longtime member of Stony Run Meeting in Baltimore. His life was deeply informed by his spiritual practice and the values of Quakerism. 

He served twice as clerk of American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), a role that allowed him to work with multiple Nobel laureates to restrict the global trade in small arms.

In a 1997 interview, Don mocked the slogan “Guns don’t kill people, people do,” saying, “I do think guns kill people. And sometimes, the people pulling the trigger are people who don’t know what they’re doing—like little kids. And sometimes the victims are people who are not intended to be shot.”

Don is survived by his wife of 60 years, Gail Gann; four children, Susan Hibbs, Donald S. Gann Jr., Robert Gann, and Richard Gann; and three grandchildren.

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