Kenneth G. Swan


Kenneth G. Swan, professor of surgery for over 40 years, and combat surgeon for multiple tours in Vietnam and the first Gulf War, died suddenly on March 22 at his home in South Orange, N.J. He was 79.


Kenneth G. Swan, professor of surgery for over 40 years, and combat surgeon for multiple tours in Vietnam and the first Gulf War, died suddenly on March 22 at his home in South Orange, N.J. He was 79.

Dr. Swan, a trauma, vascular and thoracic surgeon at The University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, was instrumental in the development of the Trauma Center in Newark, N.J., after his return from duty in Vietnam in the early 1970s.
It was Vietnam where Dr. Swan cared for wounded soldiers and developed the skills that would be part of his ongoing legacy, which included writing two textbooks on the treatment of gunshot wounds. This expertise was then applied to the treatment of thousands of civilian victims of gun violence.

Kenneth Girvan Swan was born on Oct. 2, 1934, in White Plains, N.Y., and grew up in Scarsdale, N.Y. 
He played football, wrestled, and pole vaulted at Scarsdale High School, and was an Eagle Scout. He graduated cum laude from Harvard University, and earned his medical degree from Cornell University Medical College in Manhattan. 
He trained at New York Hospital, completing a residency in general surgery and cardiothoracic surgery in 1968. During the middle of this training, Dr. Swan spent an additional year at University of California, Los Angeles, studying gastrointestinal physiology under the mentorship of Dr. Eugene Jacobsen. This would be a pivotal year in the evolution of Dr. Swan as a researcher.
After completing his surgical training, Dr. Swan entered the Army under the Berry Plan, and in 1968 was sent to Vietnam, the first of three tours. 

He treated hundreds of wounded soldiers and gained valuable experience. He rose through the ranks, completing numerous training schools, including Airborne, Special Forces, HALO, and Air Assault School. 

For his efforts, Dr. Swan was awarded the Bronze Star with two Oak Leaf Clusters, and earned the rank of colonel. 
Between tours, Dr. Swan was assigned director, division of surgery, Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C. 
After serving in the Army Reserve for most of the 1970s and 1980s, Colonel Swan was recalled to active duty, where he served in Saudi Arabia during Desert Storm, the first Gulf War. 

Upon his retirement from the Army in 1998, Colonel Swan was awarded the Legion of Merit. 
Dr. Swan's civilian career was equally distinguished. As professor of surgery, he practiced general, vascular, thoracic, and trauma surgery for over 40 years in Newark. 

Trauma was his calling. He published over 300 articles in medical literature on trauma, shock, physiology, and medical history. He lectured hundreds of times nationally and internationally. 
Dr. Swan was a member of several distinguished societies, including the American Physiological Society, the Society of University Surgeons, the American Surgical Association, the Society for Vascular Surgery, and the Society of Medical Consultants to the Armed Services. He was a member of Alpha Omega Alpha, a medical honor society. More recently, Dr. Swan was recognized as a Distinguished Eagle Scout, a member of the Osler Medical History Society, president of the Medical History Society of New Jersey, and an elder at Wyoming Presbyterian Church. 

One of Dr. Swan's great passions was teaching, and he won numerous awards for his efforts teaching medical students and surgical residents. His legacy lives on with them. 

Dr. Swan is survived by his wife of 50 years, Betsy, whom he met when she was a nurse at New York Hospital; his brother, Bruce; his children, Stephanie Barbagiovanni and her husband, John, KG and his wife, Karen, and Debbie Wright and her husband, Foster, and his seven grandchildren, Jake, Kaleigh, Samuel, Kyle, Alden, Ryan, and Lauren.