John Paul Gusdon, Jr., M.D.

John Paul Gusdon

1931-2001
AGOS 1985

John Paul Gusdon, Jr. was born February 13, 1931 in Cleveland, Ohio to John and Pauline Gusdon. After finishing Horace Mann High School in Gary, Indiana, he enrolled at The University of Virginia, Charlottesville, where he received the B. A. Degree in 1952. He served in the U.S. Navy in various capacities from 1948 to 1960. He was a student Midshipman, USN during his four undergraduate years at Charlottesville. At graduation from Virginia he was commissioned as an Ensign. He entered active duty in 1952, and served for three adventurous years during the Korean War era. He underwent training with a pioneering Navy Frog program, in which he became qualified as a specialist in underwater demolition. He was to gain considerable experience with such demolition techniques under combat conditions in Korea. For outstanding service he was awarded the Navy Cross. He was released to inactive duty, as Lieutenant. U.S. Navy Reserve in order to attend medical school at the University of Virginia.

Quite early in his medical school years, John settled on obstetrics and gynecology as his future medical specialty. During summer vacation periods John had three-month research fellowships, which exerted a major influence upon his development. After the first year, John worked in the Department of Physiology. For the electives after his second and third years, he served under the tutelage of Quentin Myrvik, Ph.D. an immunologist, who introduced John to tissue culture techniques and immunological methodology. Professor Myrvik fired up John's enthusiasm toward developing an active career in that field. Thus at the end of medical school, the mileposts for his professional future were already set. Filling in the blanks between those mileposts, however, required nearly a decade of systematic effort. He had one year of rotating internship at University Hospitals of Cleveland, followed by four years of Obstetrics and Gynecology residency at Case Western Reserve School of Medicine (then Western Reserve School of Medicine) at Cleveland, where the Chair was Dr. Kenneth Ryan. John discovered that, as compared to the internship, the less onerous duty hours during the residency (working only every third night) permitted him time to start doing research during the residency. His energetic research efforts finally gave him a chance to publish his first research paper on "A bactericidin for Bacillus subtilis in pregnancy", J. Immunology 1962;88:494-499. At that point, John determined that immunology should play an important role in his future. As he reported: "I was hooked on immunology".

Then came a three-year stint as a USPH Fellow in Immunochemistry under Professor Abram Stavitsky in the Case Western Reserve University Department of Microbiology. John always gratefully acknowledged the guidance of Professor Stavitsky as counselor, research director, basic science educator and co-author.

Starting in the year 1960, John had always held an appointment in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. During that time he advanced from Research Assistant to Assistant Obstetrician to Instructor. Finally, in his 9th postdoctoral year in Cleveland, he became an Assistant Professor, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. By that time he had become a Diplomat of the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and he had resumed clinical activities and teaching in the Department

In July 1967 he moved to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, as assistant professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Bowman Gray School of Medicine. There he advanced to associate professor in 1970, to professor in 1974, and retired as Professor Emeritus in 1990. During his 23 years as an academic teacher, clinician and researcher at Bowman Gray, John might be said to have served about equally as a "clinical scientist" and as a "scientific clinician".

John Gusdon's research achievements were acknowledged by a number of honors. He received the Cleveland Obstetrical Society Research Award Joseph Collins Fellowship (1961), the North American Postgraduate Medical Association Research Award (1965), a Josiah Macy, Jr. Foundation Faculty Fellowship (1966-1969), Foundation Prize Thesis, South Atlantic Association of Obstetrics and Gynecology (1968), The biennial John Horsley Memorial Award from the University of Virginia (1968), the President's Award, American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists (1970 and 1972), and The Foundation Prize, American Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (1971). Of some 70 publications listed in his curriculum vitae, no less than 11 deal with his systematic studies with chlorpromazine in which he was elucidating the biologic nature and immunologic implications of that drug and indicating how the drug might be of use in human erythroblastosis.

One of John's great professional satisfactions related to his being widely recognized as the founder of the American Society for Reproductive Immunology. Early in his career John had noted with regret the wide communication gap between clinical obstetrician/gynecologists and professional immunologists, and set about publicizing and organizing a new group to bridge that gap. He served three years as president of that fledgling organization (1981-1984), and continued his participation in it for many years.

John Gusdon was a member of the American Gynecological and Obstetrical Society, Society for Gynecologic Investigation, American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Association of Immunologists, North Carolina Medical Society, Forsyth County Medical Society, Groupement Des Allergologistes et Immunologistes de Lanques Latines, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine, Southern Perinatal Association, International Society of Immunology of Reproduction and the American Society for Reproductive Immunology. He is listed in Who's Who in America.

In the early 1950's John was serving on destroyer duty on the French Riviera, when he met and fell in love with a beautiful young French lady, Marcelle Deiber, from Cannes, France. The budding romance was curtailed by John's being shipped out to Korea on short notice, and they never saw each other again for three years. Fortunately, the long-distance romance persisted, and they were married in 1956. The Gusdons had three children, Marguerite, John and Veronique. John's avocations included fishing, cooking and amateur boxing. On several occasions after he became emeritus at Bowman Gray, he provided care for Native Americans in the Indian Hospital Service.

In 1979, after 23 years of marriage, Marcelle died, after a long struggle with breast cancer. In 1989 John married the estimable R. Carolyn Gusdon, with whom he shared a dozen happy years. He appeared to be in bounding good health and spirits until November 6, 2001, when he died suddenly from heart disease at his home in Atlanta. His family and friends will deeply miss the presence of this unique and warm human being.

Submitted by Charles H. Hendricks, M.D.

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