Denis Cavanagh, MD

Denis Cavanagh, MD

Denis Cavanagh, MD (June 14, 2012)

Denis Cavanagh was born in Scotland in 1923. During World War II he immediately enrolled in the Royal Air Force with which he served from 1942 until 1947. Denis entered Glasgow University to study medicine, graduating in 1952. He completed training in Obstetrics and Gynecology in 1955. Denis married Margaret Mary McNab during this time. Denis and Margaret moved to the United States where he was a General Surgery resident in Atlantic City in 1956. He was appointed American Cancer Society Fellow in Gynecology at the University of Texas MD Anderson Hospital and Tumor Institute from 1958-1959 under Dr Felix Rutledge. Denis joined the faculty at the University of Miami School of Medicine and remained there from 1959 – 1966. Denis and Margaret moved to St Louis in 1966 as Professor and Chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of St Louis. During that time, he developed interests in and research into Preeclampsia and Septic Shock. He was joined by Dr Timothy O’Connor from Dublin, and together they wrote seminal texts on Septic Shock in Obstetrics and Gynaecology and Obstetric Emergencies.

During this time, Denis did encounter deep and profound conflicts with political, administrative and even religious issues. He took a stance on abortion in view of his strong beliefs and supported others with the same principles often against the tide of medical and popular opinion. He respected at all times the opinions of others even though he chose to disagree with them on occasions. His conflict with the Dean and administrators at St Louis who he felt had not honored a commitment to build a new women’s hospital and develop his department led to him to move to Hobart, Tasmania as the inaugural Professor and Chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the University of Tasmania in 1975. After a year in Tasmania, he was persuaded to return to St Louis to his previous post.

After only another year in St Louis Denis was recruited by Dr James Ingram and appointed Director of Gynecologic Oncology at the University of South Florida, and remained in that position from 1977-1999. He started a fellowship program in Gynecologic Oncology recognized by the sub-specialty board of the American Board.

When Margaret died in 1996, he subsequently married Anne, who also came from outside the US. Denis suffered from a major cerebro-vascular accident in 1999. Although he made a good partial recovery, Denis retired. He spent the last few years of his life becoming gradually weaker and frailer in a care home.

Denis became a US citizen in 1961. He was also a member of the Society of Pelvic Surgeons, The South Atlantic Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Association of University Professors, a Fellow of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (Great Britain and Ireland), a Founding Member of the Society of Gynecological Oncologists, and a member of the Board of Directors of the American Cancer Society. He was the recipient of numerous awards in recognition of his tremendous contributions to medicine.

Denis was the author of over 250 articles in peer review journals, 50 textbook chapters and 4 textbooks.

Denis passed away on the 24th July 2012 at the age of 88. He was truly world renowned. His contribution to medicine and life in general was enormous. Denis had many other attributes including a fantastic sense of humor and an incredible intellect. He had a powerful presence that continues to be felt. I was his fellow and colleague – unquestionably the best years of my professional career. Although I never called him Denis and we were a generation apart, Dr. Cavanagh and I were friends. I hope there are many of you out there who remember him and the great man he was.

Submitted by Mitchel Hoffman

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