April 19, 1931 — May 21, 2018
Dr. David Campbell Dean, who served as Chief of Cardiology at the Buffalo Veterans Affairs Medical Center from 1962 to 1991, pioneered medical innovations, received awards, held offices, educated his peers and published research papers.
But his defining trait went far beyond his interest in science and medicine, his family said. It was his unwavering interest in people — relatives, friends, patients, colleagues and even strangers.
"He loved people, loved to talk to people, loved to find out their stories," said his daughter, Laurie Dean Baird.
On May 21, Dr. Dean, a powerhouse of intellectual curiosity, accomplishment and activity whom his daughter nonetheless described as "a county doctor," died in his Snyder home. He was 87.
At 6 foot 3, Dr. Dean would lean down for face-to-face conversations, Baird said, an experience that some found too intense. But for others, especially his patients, being so thoroughly heard and seen would be both refreshing and reassuring.
"He was sort of a country doctor," his daughter said. "People could call him at home, his patients would bring him gifts, the neighborhood kids who needed physicals would come over. The door was always open."
Although Dr. Dean closed his office a few years ago, he remained active until his final weeks, reading EKGs and providing independent medical evaluations, said his daughter. "Mentally, he was very strong," she said.
Dr. Dean was born on April 19, 1931, the oldest of four children of the late Dr. Archibald S. and Eleanor (Genthner) Dean. The Maine natives brought their family to Western New York when Dr. Archibald Dean, who was also a professor at U.B., began work at the Department of Public Health of Western New York State.
Dr. David Dean graduated from Amherst Central High School in 1948, earned his undergraduate degree from Bowdoin College in 1952, and graduated from Johns Hopkins Medical School in 1956.
In the summer of 1955, he met Jean Lord Butler, also a Maine native, when she came to Buffalo for Occupational Therapy training. They married on June 9, 1956.
From 1959 until 1961, Dr. Dean was Instructor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, and in 1960, he served as a Cardiology Fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital.
He then returned to his hometown. Beginning in 1961, he served as a Clinical Professor of Medicine and Clinical Professor of Rehabilitation Medicine at the U.B.'s School of Medicine.
He was Chief of Cardiology at the Buffalo Veterans Affairs Medical Center from 1962 to 1991. Dr. Dean worked with Dr. William Chardack and Dr. Andrew Gage, who conducted pioneering work on the first implantable cardiac pacemaker, and the three co-authored multiple publications between 1964 and 1981.
Dr. Dean authored 64 journal publications and edited the book "Interpreting ECGs, An Advanced Self-Test Guide." He trained 60 Cardiology fellows and interns and gave lectures on cardiology all over the world.
After stepping down from the V.A., he worked as a consultant for many hospitals in the Buffalo area, including Buffalo General Hospital, St. Joseph’s Hospital and Millard Fillmore.
Dr. Dean was a three-time winner of the Physicians Recognition Award from the American Medical Association and a Fellow of the American College of Physicians, the American Federation of Clinical Research and the Council of Clinical Cardiology of the American Heart Association. He founded a chapter of Mended Hearts and was an official adviser for the national advisory board of that group.
Dr. Dean belonged to many medical associations, including the Paul Dudley White Society and the International Society for Heart Transplant. He helped train local first responders and firefighters in CPR. He served as president of the Buffalo Academy of Medicine, the Association of VA Cardiologists, the Health Science Library and the Gross Medical Club, whose meetings he attended through the last months of his life.
A lover of both the arts and sports, Dr. Dean held season tickets to the Buffalo Philharmonic and sponsored the Acadia Repertory Theatre in Maine. Since 1970, he held season tickets to both the Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Sabres. He was also a consultant for medical care of Sabres players.
In 1964, the family started summering on Mount Desert Island, where Dr. Dean enjoyed hours on the water in his powerboat. "He was very jovial, and loved to tease," his daughter said.
An avid tennis player, he participated in countless games and competitions at the Causeway Club in Maine. He and a partner won the ‘Over 100’ Mixed Doubles Championship in 1997 and 2000.
"His definition of family was a friend of a friend of a friend," said his daughter. "He loved to make connections among people he met."
Dedicated to education, Dr. Dean established the Archibald and David Dean Scholarship at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in 2009.
On Christmas Eve, with his health failing, Dr. Dean gave his wife of 62 years a handwritten note that said, "May you have many more healthy years." With what his family called "this simple yet profound gift," Dr. Dean communicated his wish that his wife "live well and long, even as his own health was declining."
Besides his wife and his daughter, he is survived by two sons, Bruce and Keith; a sister, Sylvia Raban; a brother, Archibald Dean; five grandchildren; four great-grandchildren; and many nieces and nephews.
A memorial service will be held at 6 p.m. Saturday in at the Westminster Presbyterian Church, 724 Delaware Ave.