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An Appreciation Of Dr. Harold J. Browne (1922-2015)

by friend and colleague William MacGowan FRCSI. FACS

Harold Browne, who was a Fellow in the Mayo Clinic from 1950 to 1953, died in Dublin Ireland, on Jan. 5th. 2015, aged 92 years.

Harold was born in Dublin in 1922 and went through medical school in University College Dublin, graduating with Honours, MB BCh BAO in 1946. He interned in the Richmond Hospital in Dublin, and after the Intern Year became Resident Anaesthetist, but this was only a stepping-stone to his chosen career of Surgeon. He became Resident Surgeon practising general surgery and then applied for a Residency Programme in the Mayo Clinic. He was appointed and started as a Fellow in April 1950.

He roomed with Nellie Baldwin in Rochester meeting up with Fellows, Dan Connolly, Pat Forest, Al Minnow, Dr. Oliver Beahrs, Dr. Bill Manger and Wally Traynor.

Harold trained with some famous surgeons in the Clinic such as Dr. Harrington, Dr. Kirklin, Dr. Coventry, Dr. Ghormley and Henry Ellis Jun. In his final year he was offered a staff position in orthopaedic surgery by Dr.Ghormley, the Chief of Orthopaedics. He declined the offer because he wanted to return to Dublin. Before leaving he took the Master Degree in Surgery at the University of Minneapolis. He returned to Dublin in May 1953, to the Richmond Hospital as Surgical Registrar.

He was awarded the Master Degree in Surgery (MCh) by University College Dublin in 1953. He was appointed a Consultant Surgeon to the Hospital in 1955. He worked all his life in the Richmond Hospital until it closed in Nov. 1987, when he retired. He became a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons in 1961 and was awarded an Honorary Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) in 1976.

His specialty was general surgery but with a special interest in abdominal and endocrine surgery, which he excelled in, and was renowned not only in Ireland but internationally too. In his early years he taught Anatomy in the RCSI Medical School and after retirement he went back to the Anatomy Room as a Surgeon Prosector until 2013. He was a great teacher and very popular with the students   providing colourful anecdotes about the practice of surgery, and life in general. He was also a great clinical teacher in the hospital; his ward rounds were very popular with students and residents. His surgical technique was meticulous and adopted and used by his residents, many of whom are now prominent surgeons in Ireland and abroad. He was a great exponent of communicating with the patients and relatives, and believed that many of the litigation problems could be avoided by good communication and rapport with the patients. Indeed, I believe Harold thus avoided this modern    litigation hazard by his attention to this, and by the excellence of his surgical technique and postoperative care. He was truly a “safe surgeon”, Harold faithfully followed the surgical giants of the Mayo Clinic in the high standard of his surgical care and he often paid tribute to the excellence of his training there and the debt he owed to his mentors and role models.

He married Aileen MacClancy in 1955, an ophthalmologist and a classmate. They had 5 children, 2 girls and 3 boys. Sadly Aileen died in 1982, leaving Harold, single-handed to take care of a young family. He tackled this like his surgery, meticulous, kindly and caring. He was dedicated father whilst practicing as a very busy and most sought after surgeon.

He married again in 1999, Vivienne Nash who was a theatre nurse in the Richmond Hospital. Vivienne gave Harold tender and loving care for 16 years and made him a happy and contented man. Harold’s mobility was restricted during his terminal illness but he was nursed with exemplary care by Vivienne, supported by his daughters and sons. Nevertheless he still enjoyed his meals, watching movies and quality time with his family. He was devoted to his grandchildren.

Harold will be sadly missed by Vivienne, his immediate family and 6 grandchildren. He will also be missed by the many surgeons he trained, the students he taught, his many life long friends and medical and nursing colleagues, to which I have the honour to belong.

William MacGowan FRCSI. FACS

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