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Thomas K. Hunt, MD, Professor Emeritus of Surgery, Friend and Distinguished Colleague, Dead at the Age of 88

Thomas K. Hunt, MD photo montage

We are deeply saddened to announce the passing of our friend and colleague, Dr. Thomas Hunt, Professor Emeritus of Surgery at UCSF and a Naffziger Society member, who has died at the age of 88. 

Although retired, Dr. Hunt’s towering presence was still felt. He was a fixture of UCSF Department of Surgery Grand Rounds and a regular attendee at the annual J. Engelbert Dunphy Resident Research Symposium.

Thomas K. Hunt, MD was an internationally renowned and highly respected surgeon, professor and researcher. “TK” or “Papa Tom,” as he was known by colleagues and family, was a general surgeon at the UCSF from 1964 until 2001. He was best known for helping develop the trauma unit at San Francisco General Hospital and for his research on the cellular biology of wound healing. His easy-to-implement ideas shaped the standard of care for the prevention of infections after surgery. 

After graduating from medical school in 1956, Dr. Hunt did his internship at Boston City Hospital under famed surgeon J. Englebert Dunphy MD, then was drafted into the US Army where he served as a medical officer. He followed Dunphy to the University of Oregon and completed his residency there in 1964; then did a year-long research fellowship in Glasgow, Scotland, where he worked on methods to infuse hyperbaric oxygen into tissue to aid the healing of surgical wounds.

Dr. Hunt joined the staff at UCSF in 1965, where he also became Director of the Wound Healing Laboratory in the Department of General Surgery and Vice Chairman for Research Affairs for the Department of Surgery. In addition, he was an adjunct professor of surgery at Ohio State University and a consulting surgeon at the University of Tübingen in Germany. He was also the founding President of the Wound Healing Society, served on the Board of Directors of the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society and as President of the American Trauma Society, and received countless honors from universities and organizations across the globe.

Dr. Hunt taught surgery in Southeast Asia for the James IV Association of Surgeons. While in Vietnam, the State Department appointed him Civilian Chief of Surgery for one Saigon hospital and he got out just weeks before the fall of the city.

More importantly, patients knew Dr. Hunt as a compassionate and understanding physician with a calm and caring bedside manner. Colleagues often described him as brilliant, yet modest. Research was one of Dr. Hunt’s passions and he loved teaching residents and fellows in his lab at UCSF until he closed it in 2003. That laboratory produced more than 425 research papers and his works are cited in more than 20,000 others according to Research Gate. He also co-authored four books on the healing of wounds.

“Tom Hunt was a giant in the world of wound healing,” said Annette Wysocki, past president of the Wound Healing Society. “Equally as important as the research and teaching that Tom did, was the way he provided mentorship and inclusivity to the next generation of junior postdocs, faculty and scholars.”

There is no memorial planned at this time. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to the Union of Concerned Scientists or the Lewy Body Dementia Association

Dr. Hunt’s full obituary can found online here, where photos can be uploaded and condolences posted honoring his memory.

TK Hunt was the reason I went to UCSF for surgery training. He fostered an environment that helped young surgeon scientist. We will all miss him. @UCSFSurgery @WomenSurgeons #mentorship— Sareh Parangi,MD (@SarehParangiMD) March 2, 2019