C. Rollins Hanlon, M.D., a pioneering cardiovascular surgeon who led the department of surgery from 1950 to 1969, died Tuesday, May 3, after a long battle with lymphoma. He was 96.
|C. Rollins Hanlon, M.D.|
"Dr. Hanlon was truly a medical giant who put the surgery department and medical school on the map in many ways," said Robert Johnson, M.D., chair of the department of surgery and holder of the C. Rollins Hanlon Endowed Chair.
"One of the things that attracted me to Saint Louis University was the opportunity to come to a place where Dr. Hanlon had been and to hold his chair."
Attracted to Saint Louis University in 1950 from Johns Hopkins by University President Paul Reinert, S.J., and School of Medicine Dean Melvin Casberg, M.D., Hanlon was SLU's first chair of the department of surgery.
Innovator in cardiac surgery
A cardiac surgery pioneer, Hanlon invented a procedure to treat a congenital heart problem and was one of the early people to figure out how to perform coronary bypass grafts. He brought open-heart surgery to the area and established the surgery department as a regional research and clinical center for the study and treatment of cardiac conditions.
He also recruited Eugene Lewis, M.D., to join him at Saint Louis University in 1950, and help build the pediatric surgery program.
Lewis, who was SLU's first chair of pediatrics and watched the construction of Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center, remembered those early days when he and Hanlon were the surgery department.
"Saint Louis University rose from a practically unknown surgical center to become a fine center, no question about it. Dr. Hanlon was the leader and director and did a tremendous job," Lewis said.
"He was a bright man, highly organized, a very good cardiac surgeon, a highly articulate man who was very well respected and a great teacher."
Mentor to many
Hanlon will long be remembered for his deep commitment to his Catholic faith, stately, elegant demeanor, ever present silk pocket square, wry sense of humor and eagerness to pass along his knowledge to others. His protégé, Vallee Willman, M.D., succeeded him as chair of surgery at SLU.
His resonate baritone voice and incredible vocabulary contributed to make him an extraordinary lecturer, Johnson said.
"Dr. Hanlon could give a speech that would leave an audience spellbound," Johnson said. "Afterwards everyone would have to grab a dictionary to figure out what he said."
While at Saint Louis University, Hanlon led a 12-person team in performing the first open-heart surgery in the lower Midwest region. He was a founding member of the American Board of Thoracic Surgery, president of the Society of University Surgeons in 1958 and chairman of the American Board of Surgery from 1966 to 67.
Along the way, he mentored medical school students and residents, instilling in them a strong sense of professionalism.
"Dr. Hanlon always referred to the medical students as ‘Mister' or ‘Miss,'' John D. Moroney, M.D., said in a 2009 Grand Rounds article that profiled Hanlon.
"Shortly after graduation in 1956, I had to return to Desloge Hospital to pick up something I had forgotten and ran into Dr. Hanlon coming out the back door. He looked up and said, ‘Good morning, Doctor.' He was the first person outside of family to call me doctor, and I can tell you it was the biggest thrill of my life up to that time."
Hanlon left Saint Louis University in 1969, to become director of the American College of Surgeons, where he served until he retired in 1986 to assume new responsibilities as the organization's executive consultant. His 1972 research led to the area's first human heart transplant.
Personification of medical professional
Keith Naunheim, M.D., director of cardiothoracic surgery, was a junior faculty member when he met Hanlon who would return to SLU occasionally as a visiting faculty member.
"He was the personification of the medical professional. His technical skills were matched only by his interpersonal ones. He was one of the most well spoken, civil, thoughtful gentlemen I've ever known," Naunheim said.
"You would never walk away from C. Rollins Hanlon without sighing and saying, ‘I wish I were that professional, that smooth, that articulate.' He was a remarkable guy."
Hanlon received his medical education and surgical training primarily at Johns Hopkins University. He also was a resident in surgery at Cincinnati General Hospital and an exchange fellow in surgery at the University of California in San Francisco.
He served in the U.S. Navy during and immediately after World War II, serving in the China-Burma-India Theater and on the hospital ship, Repose.
Hanlon is survived by his wife Margaret Hanlon, M.D.; children, Philip Hanlon, Paul Hanlon, Richard Hanlon, Thomas Hanlon, Christine Hanlon, Mary Welch, Martha Hanlon, and Sarah Cigliano; eight grandchildren and two great grandchildren.
Visitation will be from 3 to 6 p.m. Sunday, May 8 at Donnellan Family Funeral Home in Skokie, Ill. His funeral Mass will be celebrated at 11 a.m. Monday at SS. Faith, Hope & Charity Church in Winnetka, Ill.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Aid for Woman, the American College of Surgeons Foundation or NorthShore University HealthSystem Foundation Hospice Program.