Durairaj to succeed McGowan as ICVA Section Chief in pulmonary medicine

After more than two decades leading pulmonary care at the Iowa City Veterans Affairs Medical Center (ICVA), Stephen McGowan, MD, professor in Pulmonary, Critical Care and Occupational Medicine, is stepping down from his position as Pulmonary Section Chief. During his time as chief, Dr. McGowan remained dedicated to caring for his patients, led the pulmonary care of Veterans, and was a steady, resilient force for the VA Pulmonary section, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Through the many years of his exceptional service and leadership of the Pulmonary/Critical Care Section at the ICVA Dr. Stephen McGowan has been a steady ship in a turbulent time,” Bradley Dixon, MD, Chief of Medicine at the ICVA, said. “Never floundering when buffeted by the numerous waves of change that we have faced.”

Since joining University of Iowa faculty in 1986, Dr. McGowan also maintained a steady stream of funding for his research, which examines fibroblasts in lung alveolar injury and regeneration, work that will continue even as his administrative responsibilities come to an end. With more than 60 publications, Dr. McGowan’s research has advanced the study of connective tissue in the lungs. His current research examines the regulation of elastin gene expression, alveolar septal formation, and airway reactivity in vitamin A deficiency.

Dr. McGowan will remain on faculty and serve as a resource for his successor, Lakshmi Durairaj, MD, MS, associate professor in Pulmonary, Critical Care and Occupational Medicine. When the COVID-19 pandemic began, Durairaj worked alongside McGowan to successfully manage the influx of Veterans with COVID-19 at the ICVA as well as their vaccinations, coordinating changes in schedules, rotations, restrictions, and volumes that the pandemic has required.

“I have consulted with our VA faculty, Fellowship leadership, and VA leadership; the unanimous conclusion is that Dr. Durairaj is the right person for the job,” Joseph Zabner, MD, director of the Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Occupational Medicine, said. “Lakshmi has done an amazing job managing the surge in COVID19 patients at the VA. She is an amazing clinician, educator, and clinical researcher.”

McGowan’s colleagues have appreciated his leadership, mentorship, and calm insight throughout the decades. “He has been a strong advocate for his providers and successfully helped to address the many new administrative challenges that the VA has faced in recent years,” Dixon said. “We will miss his steadying force and appreciate all he has done to move us forward to meet these challenges.”

ICVA Deputy Chief of Medicine Diana I. Jalal, MD, associate professor in Nephrology, said she will miss her “spirited discussions” with McGowan and has enjoyed working with him since returning to Iowa a few years ago. “Thank you for all of your hard work at the VA,” she wrote.

UPDATE (13 April 2022):

Zabner recently hosted a celebration to honor McGowan’s tenure as section chief, at which a ceremonial passing of the torch (in rose form) from McGowan to Durairaj was documented. Zabner also made a few remarks about what McGowan’s service as a teacher has meant to the institution. He quoted Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, who wrote:

Teachers open our eyes to the world. They give us curiosity and confidence. They teach us to ask questions. They connect us to our past and future. They’re the guardians of our social heritage. We have lots of heroes today – sportsmen, supermodels, media personalities. They come, they have their fifteen minutes of fame, and they go. 

But the influence of good teachers stays with us. They are the people who really shape our life.

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