It is with great sadness that we inform the transplant community of the passing of Dr. David Hull, longtime friend and transplant surgeon at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine and Hartford Hospital. David was born in Astoria, NY. He graduated from the University of Florida and completed his surgery residency at Boston University Affiliated Hospitals and his transplant fellowship at Tufts University.
David was diagnosed with B cell lymphoma in 2008. He began chemotherapy in October of that year under the care of Dr. Adam Borucher, his oncologist at St. Francis Hospital in Hartford, CT. He continued to perform surgeries until March 2010, at which point he was given 5 months to live unless a bone marrow transplant could be performed. He underwent 3 courses of chemotherapy and subsequently radiation therapy and chemotherapy at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. In August 2010, he received a bone marrow transplant. He resumed taking organ donor calls a few weeks after. Cathy Yavinsky, a longtime colleague and nursing administrator at Hartford Hospital, said: “He would be on the phone with us daily, checking in and helping. He just never quit. He would say that transplant represents all that was good and noble and generous in the human spirit. His enthusiasm inspired all of us.” Unfortunately, graft-versus-host disease ensued, and David died on February 11, 2013 at the age of 59 years.
Dr. Peter Deckers, dean emeritus and professor of surgery at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, found it ironic that David succumbed to a disease that is treated with transplantation and one that he frequently treated (including graft-versus-host disease): “He was committed 24/7, 365 and spared nothing in the care of the patients.” In addition, “he had never met a better doctor in his life.” Margaret Johnson Bia, M.D., professor of medicine and senior transplant nephrologist at the Yale School of Medicine, summed up David's passing this way: “Despite competition between the Hartford and Yale programs, the camaraderie between colleagues in transplant and our love of the field trumped the politics. He was a great man and a great transplant surgeon. The field of kidney transplant is not that big, almost like a large family. It really hurts when you lose one of your own.”
David began his transplant career at Hartford Hospital in 1987. I (Angel E. Alsina) met David in 1989 during my 2-year research and clinical fellowship in organ transplantation at Hartford Hospital. At that young age, he was already an experienced surgeon. I performed many operations with him and his associates at Hartford Transplant Associates, Dr. Stanley Bartus and Dr. Robert Schweitzer, and they all shaped my career and interest in organ transplantation. I owe my interest in transplantation and dedication to them. David and Robert were the only 2 transplant surgeon leaders at Hartford Hospital over the last 40 years. David led the way over the last 2 decades. He assisted me with my first manuscripts in organ transplantation. It appeared to me that David, only 2 years into his transplant career, could do it all: pediatric liver and kidney transplants, neuroendocrine tumor liver transplants, acute liver failure cases, and pancreatic surgery. I also found him to be very meticulous and a master in vascular access surgery. David was the troubleshooter and thinker during rounds. He was very fortunate to have John McNab, P.A.-C., at his side for 25 years. He defined the meaning of a physician assistant: physician partnership. John thought that “patients who had Dr. Hull as their doctor were the luckiest alive.” David was also blessed to have worked side by side with Dr. Peter Deckers and Dr. David Crombie (residency director at the University of Connecticut), both of whom shaped a superb and talented group of surgical residents at the University of Connecticut. David was highly respected by his peers and residents and frequently challenged anyone in surgical morbidity and mortality conferences, despite his voluntary faculty status. David became a clinical professor of surgery at the University of Connecticut. David was full of tenacity and heart. He spent 24 years at Hartford Hospital and was named the director of clinical transplantation in 1998. In October 2011, he became the emeritus director of transplantation. In a statement following his death, the hospital noted that David had been “the face, voice and hands of the Hartford Hospital Transplant Program for more than two decades.”
David had many other accomplishments. He authored more than 70 medical publications and abstracts and was a member of the prestigious New England Surgical Society. Additionally, David was the recipient of the 2009 James P. Colangelo, M.D., Achievement Award from the National Kidney Foundation Serving Connecticut and Western Massachusetts and the 2009 Physician of the Year Award from the Connecticut chapter of the American Liver Foundation. He performed the first laparoscopic donor nephrectomy in New England in 1996. However, among all the awards and achievements that he earned throughout his career, he was proudest of those that stemmed from his teaching. He was the recipient of several resident Educator of the Year Awards from the University of Connecticut. He was a relentless teacher and taught medical students, nurses, physician assistants, and residents at John Dempsey Hospital, St. Raphael's Hospital, St. Mary's Hospital, Quinnipiac University, Dartmouth, Bay State Medical Center, and Springfield College.
David was a tireless advocate for organ and tissue donation, for donor families, and for transplant recipients. He never forgot the sanctity of the organ donation process, and he recently often spoke of the gratitude that he felt for having been given another chance at life through the generosity of his bone marrow donor. At the time of his death, David was an associate councilor of United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) region 1 and a candidate for election as a region 1 representative on the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN)/UNOS Board of Directors. He was a current member of the OPTN/UNOS Membership and Professional Standards Committee. He also served multiple past terms on the OPTN/UNOS Organ Availability Committee and Ad Hoc Donation Committee and as the co-medical director of LifeChoice Donor Services.
Our deepest sympathy goes to David's family, including his wife Connie, his 2 sons Aaron and Jason, and his daughter Stephanie.