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In Memoriam: Douglas Surgenor, Former Dean and Health Sciences Provost

Published September 1, 2011

Former Dean Douglas M. Surgenor, PhD, a pioneer in blood collection and transfusion methods, died Aug. 6 in Peterborough, Mass., at age 93.

A native of Hartford, Conn., Surgenor earned a PhD in chemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1946.

While at MIT, he collaborated with a group of distinguished scientists in the laboratory of Edwin J. Cohn in the Department of Physical Chemistry at Harvard Medical School.

The group made groundbreaking advances in the study of protein chemistry and pioneered efforts related to plasma fractionation and human serum albumin. The landmark techniques they developed remain major foundations for modern transfusion medicine and blood collection.

“The Cohn method for plasma fractionation became very famous and the isolation of an albumin fraction (Fraction V) was especially so, as it served as an excellent substitute for human plasma in World War II,” says Alexander C.  Brownie, PhD, DSc, SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor Emeritus, Department of Biochemistry. “When administered to wounded soldiers or other patients with blood loss, it helped expand the volume of blood and led to speedier recovery.”

Surgenor was on the faculty of the Harvard Medical School from 1945 to 1960.

Diverse Leadership Roles at UB

In 1960, Surgenor came to UB to chair the Department of Biochemistry. He served as dean of the medical school from 1962-1968 and as provost of the faculty of health sciences from 1967-1970.

From 1971-1977, he served as research professor in the UB School of Management.

In 1977, he returned to Boston, where he was appointed a visiting professor in pediatrics at the Harvard Medical School.

He is survived by his wife of 65 years, Lois Hutchinson Surgenor of Peterborough; a daughter, Sara Schnitzer of Concord, Mass.; four sons, the Reverend Peter Surgenor of Holmes, N.Y., Jonathan Surgenor of Wrentham, Mass., Timothy Surgenor of Dover, Mass., and Stephen Surgenor of Meriden; 15 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren; and a sister, Mary Baker of Hilton Head, S.C.