Richard DeGowin, MD, 1934–2021

The department recently learned that Richard DeGowin, MD, emeritus professor in Hematology, Oncology, and Blood and Marrow Transplantation, passed away on Nov. 24, 2021 at the age of 87. Born at the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics, DeGowin is an Iowa City native and the son of Laura and Elmer DeGowin, MD, a pioneer in blood banking and the founder of the UI DeGowin Blood Center. After completing his education and serving in the U.S. Army Medical Corps, DeGowin joined his father on faculty at Iowa in 1968.

For nearly 30 years, DeGowin was a dedicated clinician, professor, and mentor in the Internal Medicine community. From 1978 to 1993, DeGowin served as the founding director of the UI Cancer Center. He had a joint appointment in the Radiation Research Lab, which eventually became the Department of Radiation Oncology. In his lab, DeGowin identified the murine hemopoietic stem cell and described the effects of tumor-bearing, inflammation, and radiation on stem cells and on cells of the bone marrow microenvironment. Globally, DeGowin was affiliated with many medical organizations, and served as the Chairman of the Midwest Section for the American Federation for Clinical Research.

“Dick was the kind of faculty member I wished to work with and learn from,” said C. Patrick Burns, MD, emeritus professor and Director of the Division of Hematology, Oncology, and Blood & Marrow Transplantation from 1985 to 1999. “I often looked to him as a source of clinical information on anemia and its diagnosis and treatment, and that includes erythropoiesis about which he was a published expert. He was a solid, knowledgeable and inspiring bedside teacher.” (Read the rest of his letter below.)

Elmer and Richard DeGowin, ca. 1975

In collaboration with his father, DeGowin published DeGowin’s Diagnositc Examination, which eventually was translated into seven foreign languages. The third edition of DeGowin’s Diagnostic Examination was integrated into every medical school in the United States, and for fifty years, the book has remained one of the single-best guides for clinical diagnosis. In 2020, the eleventh edition was released, still helmed by Internal Medicine faculty Manish Suneja, MD; Joseph Szot, MD; Donald Brown, MD; and Richard LeBlond, MD.

“He gave me a copy of each new edition as they were published, and he signed each with a personal note,” Burns said. “They are proudly displayed in my personal library. I looked forward to receiving a copy of each edition and kept the latest on hand for reference as I saw patients and taught Residents, Fellows and students.”

Following his retirement in 1997, DeGowin published several other books, including his memoir in 2014, House of Moffitt: The First 20 Years: a Memoir.

DeGowin is preceded in death by his wife, Janice Karen DeGowin. The department sends our condolences to their two sons and grandchildren. DeGowin’s local obituary can be found in The Gazette. Memorial offerings can be made in DeGowin’s name to the Allamakee County Conservation Board or the Oaknoll Foundation. Friends and family are invited to share memories and condolences online through the Gay & Ciha Funeral Home.

Read Burns’s letter:

When I finished my Fellowship at Case Western Reserve University Hospitals, I knew I wanted to accept a faculty position in the Midwest not too far from where I grew up. I had never been to Iowa City, but on my first recruiting visit Dick DeGowin, along with Jim Clifton and Jack Hoak, emphasized the research orientation of the Division, and I knew I would feel comfortable building my career here.

Dick was the kind of faculty member I wished to work with and learn from. He remained a source of sound guidance in all my time as a faculty member and later as Director of the Division. I often looked to him as a source of clinical information on anemia and its diagnosis and treatment, and that includes erythropoiesis, about which he was a published expert. He was a solid, knowledgeable, and inspiring bedside teacher.

When it came time to develop the University of Iowa Cancer Center, he accepted the challenge of applying for a grant and was chosen to be the Founding Director. His joint appointment in the Radiation Research Laboratory gave him wider credentials.

His book DeGowin & DeGowin’s Diagnostic Examination was and is a major contribution. He gave me a copy of each new edition as they were published, and he signed each with a personal note. They are proudly displayed in my personal library. And in this regard his book was always my go-to source of information on doing a thorough physical examination. The text was complemented by simple but clear appropriate drawings, which contributed to usefulness and clarity of the text. I looked forward to receiving a copy of each edition and kept the latest on hand for reference as I saw patients and taught Residents, Fellows, and students.

His wife, Karen, who preceded him in death, was a great support for his career and became a friend and supporter of the Division and particularly my wife and me. She helped with Division dinner parties at our home. She also always arranged for the essential best seats for the football games.

I talked with Dick infrequently since I am now semi-retired in the Southeast, but when we last spoke it brought back many fond memories of a great colleague.

— C. Patrick Burns, MD, MACP

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