Samuel Kushlan, MD


Dr. Samuel D. Kushlan, one of the most distinguished graduates in the history of Yale Medical School, and a patriarch of medicine at Yale-New Haven Hospital, died at his home in New Haven on October 16, 2010, at age 98. A pioneering gastroenterologist and a mentor and role model for generations of physicians in training at Yale, Dr. Kushlan had continued to teach as Emeritus Clinical Professor of Medicine until earlier this summer. Dr. Kushlan was the only individual in the history of Yale University to receive all three of the university’s most prestigious awards – the Campbell Medal, the Peter Parker Medal, and the Yale Medal. At the ceremony awarding him the Yale Medal in November, 2007, Dr. Kushlan attributed his accomplishments in life to good fortune in addressing the two most important decisions in life – the choice of a career and the choice of a spouse. “He hit the jackpot with both decisions”, said his son-in-law, Dr. Stephen L. Wanger. Samuel Daniel Kushlan was born in New Britain, CT on February 17, 1912.  His parents, David and Bessie (Mintz), and his older brother Charles, had emigrated from Russia. His choice of a career dated to his grade school years, when he admired the local general practitioner who had treated his family.  He thrived both academically and athletically, becoming the valedictorian of his class at Bristol High School in 1928 and playing on the school’s state championship basketball team.  At Yale (class of 1932), he played on the freshman basketball team captained by the legendary Yale hero Albie Booth.  His basketball career was forced to end after freshman year because of the scheduling demands of pre-medical course science labs, but he was constantly at the top of his class academically, and was admitted to Yale Medical School after his junior year of college.  He was awarded the Campbell Medal as the highest ranking  student in medical school upon graduation in 1935. His entire professional career was at Yale, first as a medical intern and resident, then as an attending physician and, since 1967, Clinical Professor of Medicine.  He established the section of gastroenterology at New Haven Hospital in 1938, and was the first physician in Connecticut to perform gastroscopic endoscopy. For many years he maintained an active practice in gastroenterology in New Haven, and provided consultations throughout central Connecticut. Dr. Kushlan was deeply committed to post-graduate medical education. At Yale-New Haven Hospital, he established merit awards for the medical house staff, and a visiting professorship in digestive disease, known as the Kushlan lectureship. He served as president of Yale Alumni in Medicine, Chair of Yale Medical School Bequest and Endowment Fund program, and a director of the Yale Alumni Fund. Dr. Kushlan was honored by his peers in many ways, including as their choice in 1959 as first president of the combined staff of Yale-New Haven Hospital and as Associate Physician-in-Chief, in recognition of his diplomatic skills in uniting the staff of private physicians with the full-time academic medical staff.  In 2003 he received a lifetime achievement award from the American College of Physicians.  He was honored by the community, as a trustee of Congregation Mishkan Israel and of the Day School for Girls, both in New Haven, and by the Physician of the Year award of the Connecticut Digestive Disease Society in 1975. Yale-New Haven Hospital honored him in 1982 with the naming of the Kushlan Firm as an academic hospital floor. Yale Medical School honored him in 2001 with the Peter Parker Medal for outstanding contributions to medicine. Yale University honored him in 2007 with the Yale Medal, for extraordinary service to the university. He considered these last two awards to represent  the capstone of his career. But most important, Dr. Kushlan became the essence of Yale medicine – the mentor and role model for generations of physicians in training over the past 75 years.  Each year he was honored by a group of probably his severest critics – medical interns and residents – with letters of gratitude, praise and appreciation, which he proudly framed. He continued to attend daily hospital morning report on a regular basis until earlier this summer.  “My function”, he said in an interview last year, “is to toss in a pearl from time to time, to earn my keep”. In his last few weeks of life, the current group of medical house officers delivered cookies to his house. The other most important choice in life, the choice of a spouse, rivaled his professional accomplishments in its longevity and fulfillment.  After meeting Ethel Ross he told his best friend at college: “I just met the girl I’m going to marry”. Ethel’s father had decreed no wedding before age 21; they were married on the first Sunday after her 21st birthday.  He is survived by his wife of 76 years; by his son David R. Kushlan, of Farmington, CT; his daughter Nancy K. Wanger and her husband, Dr. Stephen L. Wanger, of Chestnut Hill, MA; his grandson David K. Wanger and his wife Dr. Gwen Kane-Wanger, of Waban, MA; his granddaughter Betsy K. Wanger and her husband, Steven A. Steinbach, of Washington, D.C.; and by 5 great-grandchildren (Emily K. Wanger, Daniel A. Wanger, Benjamin K. Wanger, David S. W. Steinbach and Alison W. Steinbach).

Funeral services were held Monday with interment in the Beth Alom Cemetery, New Britain. Period of mourning is private. Memorial contributions may be made to the Samuel D. Kushlan, MD Lectureship Fund of Yale Medical School c/o Dept. of Medicine, Yale-New Haven Hosp., 20 York St., New Haven, CT 06504.

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  1. Dick and Cary Jacobs said,

    10.19.10 at 9:30 am

    Sincere condolences. He was a wonderful man.

  2. Sis & Howard Jacobs said,

    10.19.10 at 11:18 am

    The reason I am here today enjoying my life and my family is because Dr. Kushlan and Dr. Taffel were there when I needed them.

    They did everything within their power to make sure I survived. And I am eternally greatful.

  3. Sharon Cullen said,

    10.19.10 at 1:14 pm

    My sincere condolences on Dr. Kushlan’s passing. He was truly a gentleman’s gentleman. I have worked at Yale-New Haven for many years and came to know Dr. Kushlan as a result. He always took the time to say hello and to stop and chat. I will miss seeing him making his “rounds”.

  4. Dr. Herbert and Vivian B. Lewis said,

    10.19.10 at 4:32 pm

    Our deep condolences to Ethel and the family. Those who worked with Sam at Yale-New Haven Hospital were inspired over so many years by his devotion, wisdom and unfailing warmth and courtesy. He leaves a great legacy.

  5. Karen Cameron said,

    10.20.10 at 6:38 am

    Dr. Kushlan was a wonderful man. I was so used to seeing him every morning. On days he didn’t show up, I worried about what happened to him, so he would call to let me know if he was not going to be in. He always brought cookies to our office on Christmas. He was the first person who would get the House Staff Picture Brochure, he wanted to know who everyone was.

    We will miss him terribly.

  6. Linda Parady said,

    10.20.10 at 12:23 pm

    To Dave, your Mom and your entire family:
    I wish to express my deepest sympathy to all of you. Your Dad was a man who lived a long and very fulfilling life both personally and professionally. He created and cherished a wonderful family who supported him so he could be a great medical pioneer who now leaves behind a great legacy for future interns who will follow in his footsteps.

    My sincere condolences,
    Linda Parady

  7. Michael & Jeannine McCann said,

    10.20.10 at 4:51 pm

    Dr. Kushlan was a kind and gentle man. He was very proud of having a great-grandaughter at Yale. We will miss him on his walks through the neighborhood. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Kushlan family.

    Michael & Jeannine McCann

  8. Adam Mayerson, M.D. said,

    10.21.10 at 10:05 pm

    I was honored to have known Dr. Kushlan and consider myself lucky to have had the opportunity to benefit from his experience and wisdom. His comments and just his presence were always appreciated at any housestaff function. His presence will remain. My sincere condolences.

  9. Josephine Brellis said,

    10.22.10 at 10:29 am

    I have know Dr. Kushlan since I started at Yale-New Haven Hospital 32 years ago. I consider it a honor to have known him. He was a world of knowlege and a wonderful human being. He leaves a great legacy behind. My prayers are with his family.

    Josephine Brellis

  10. Rita Allen said,

    10.25.10 at 9:10 am

    Dr. Kushlan was a true giant in the field. He influenced many lives outside of medicine as well. My deepest sympathy to the family.

    Rita Allen