David Hanson (1943-2002)

Obituary written by Edward L. Applebaum, MD, published in Journal of Voice, vol. 16, no. 4, 2002:

On Wednesday, July 10th, 2002, Dr. David Hanson, 58, died of cancer at his home in La Porte, Indiana. Until his recent illnesses, Dr. Hanson had been Professor and Chairman of the Department of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery at Northwestern University Medical School. He was also well known for his expertise in laryngeal and voice research.

Dr. Hanson was born in Seattle, Washington on November 16th, 1943. He attended Wheaton College in Illinois and medical school at the University of Washington in Seattle, graduating in 1970. He did his residency at the University of Minnesota where he also obtained a Master of Science degree. Following completion of his residency in 1975, Dr. Hanson served three years on active-duty with the United States Public Health Service as a Staff Scientist at the National Institutes of Health. At NIH he initiated and developed a program involving clinical otolaryngology within the Communicative Disorders Program. In 1978, Dr. Hanson joined the academic faculty of the Division of Head and Neck Surgery at the University of California at Los Angeles. He served as chief of the section of Head and Neck Surgery at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in West Los Angeles and vice chief of the UCLA Division of Head and Neck Surgery. It was during his tenure at UCLA that Dr. Hanson’s interest in clinical and investigative laryngology evolved, and his program of laryngeal and voice research became increasingly productive. Beginning in 1985, and continuously for 15 years until he became ill, his research was funded by the NIH and many contributions were made to our understanding of laryngeal physiology.

Dr. Hanson came to Northwestern University as Professor and Chairman of the Department of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery in 1989 and served in that capacity until 2000. Because of illness, he stepped down from the chairmanship but remained on the faculty until the time of his death. He was also Professor of Communication Sciences and Disorders in the Northwestern University School of Speech. He maintained an active laryngeal physiology laboratory that continued to produce numerous publications and helped train medical students, residents, and fellows. During his chairmanship, Dr. Hanson revitalized the department’s research laboratories. He also recruited, encouraged, and retained an excellent clinical faculty that forms the basis of today’s fine department.

Dr. Hanson authored 85 original research papers and 12 invited articles and book chapters. He was a member of the American College of Surgeons, American Broncho-Esophagological Association, American Society of Head and Neck Surgery, American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery, Triological Society, American Speech–Language–Hearing Association, American Laryngological Association, Association for Research in Otolaryngology, and the Chicago Laryngological and Otological Society. He served on the editorial boards of seven specialty journals. In his clinical work, he had a special interest in the care of professional voices and saw many well-known performers who came to Chicago with voice problems. A vocalist himself, Dr. Hanson had a special rapport with singers who consulted him. For a professional whose special interest was the larynx and voice, his own was soft-spoken and gentle, reflecting the kind individual who produced it.

I met David Hanson the first day he came to Chicago to take over the chairmanship at Northwestern, when I was chairman at the University of Illinois. Our programs intersected at several hospitals where both of our residents served. He treated his residents kindly and was universally liked by them and his fellow chairmen at Northwestern. When illness forced him to step down from the chairmanship in 2000, I was retiring from the University of Illinois and was asked to head the department at Northwestern. In the departmental office I found a quotation from Dr. Hanson that reads, “I try to deal with everything I approach in life with integrity and honesty—in patient, personal and professional interactions.” The person that I knew, and the department that bears his imprint, confirm the veracity of that statement. Dr. David Hanson has left his impact on the specialty of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery, Northwestern’s department, and laryngeal and voice research. He will be missed by his many friends and colleagues who have benefited by his gentle presence and by his dear wife, Terri Dangerfield Hanson.

Journal of Voice

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