Consumate educator, Dr. Hodgson, dies at age 91

Former UNMC surgery chairman called a 'gentleman and a scholar'

Paul Hodgson, M.D., a former chairman of the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s Department of Surgery, died Wednesday in Omaha from multiple health issues. He was 91.

A memorial service for Dr. Hodgson will be held on Oct. 19 at Dundee Presbyterian Church with a private inurnment at a later date at the Wisconsin Memorial Park, Wauwatosa, Wis.

After earning his medical degree in 1945 at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Dr. Hodgson served as a captain in the U.S. Army Medical Corps from 1946-1948. He returned to the University of Michigan and joined the faculty in the department of surgery before coming to UNMC in 1962 as professor of surgery.

During his tenure at UNMC, he served as assistant dean for academic affairs from 1969 to 1972 and chairman of the department of surgery from 1972 to 1984. He held an appointment as Shackleford Professor of Surgery and was named an honorary alumnus of the College of Medicine in 1985. He retired in 1988, becoming an emeritus professor of surgery.

James Edney, M.D., chief of surgical oncology at UNMC, first met Paul Hodgson, M.D., when Dr. Edney was a third-year medical student.

“Dr. Hodgson was the epitome of the consummate surgical educator,” Dr. Edney said. “He was a true gentleman who lived his life to the highest principles, a meticulous surgeon who always put the interests of the patient in the forefront, and an outstanding mentor and role model for the surgical trainee.”

“He truly cared about the university, the College of Medicine, the department of surgery, and he was especially fond of the residents,” said David W. Mercer, M.D., current chairman of the department of surgery.

In 2006, Dr. Hodgson was named one of The Nebraska Medical Center’s “Legends,” an honor awarded to retired physicians who have demonstrated remarkable leadership, professionalism and friendship.

“He was clearly a superstar in surgical education and supported the department in that arena in so many ways, including the Paul Hodgson Lectureship that brought so many other superstars in surgery to the UNMC campus,” Dr. Mercer said.

Jon Thompson, M.D., was recruited to UNMC 30 years ago by Dr. Hodgson. He now holds Dr. Hodgson’s old post as the Shackleford Professor of Surgery.

“I was attracted more by the trust and confidence he inspired than the certainty of the opportunity,” Dr. Thompson said. “He was warm and engaging, had strong values, and was genuinely interested in others.

“Dr. Hodgson was a superb surgeon who could perform almost any operation. His surgical skill, patience, attention to detail and caring manner endeared him to his patients. He influenced legions of medical students, surgical trainees, and fellow surgeons,” Dr. Thompson said.

“UNMC has lost a strong supporter, the department of surgery has lost an important part of its history, and we have all lost a valued mentor and friend.”

Dr. Hodgson was preceded in death by his wife, Barbara “Oz.” Survivors include his daughter, Ann, and son, Paul.

Memorial gifts may be made to the Paul E. Hodgson, M.D., Innovations in Surgical Education Fund at the University of Nebraska Foundation or to the Dundee Presbyterian Church.

Through world-class research and patient care, UNMC generates breakthroughs that make life better for people throughout Nebraska and beyond. Its education programs train more health professionals than any other institution in the state. Learn more at unmc.edu.

What others are saying about Dr. Hodgson:

“He was a quiet giant, a true gentleman who made everyone feel at ease, and quite the ambassador for UNMC. His wife was a member of the Delta Gamma Sorority, as was I. Every time he saw me, he would serenade me with Delta Gamma songs and often swept me up in a bit of a dance. He had an amazing voice and a great sense of humor. He continued to attend the surgical grand rounds well past retirement. He will be remembered by so many people for all his great deeds, his love of life and especially family.”

Laurel Williams, nurse coordinator, transplant

“I knew Dr. Hodgson not only as the consummate gentleman surgeon, but also as an inveterate bee keeper.  Now and then, the bees got the better of him and he’d appear at grand rounds or a dinner party with his eyes swollen near shut and his nose like a pomegranate. He never begrudged the bees, granting them their protective instincts, admiring their predictability in a time of so much change. Paul was also generous with people; too optimistic to imagine our dark sides, he sought to encourage and cultivate those in his care. I'll miss him terribly, as perhaps will his bees.”

Byers W. Shaw, Jr., M.D., former chairman of UNMC Department of Surgery, 1997-2008

“He was a mentor before we talked of mentors. He came from an age of surgeons in academia who, while brilliant, were better remembered for their bombast, ego, and often cruel harassment of those around them. Dr. Hodgson was a true gentleman. Beyond being a skilled surgeon, he was the most patient and tireless teacher of surgery I've ever been around. He’s been most influential, supportive, and promotive of my career and, more importantly, helping bring our educational program in Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery to its current status and national reputation. UNMC does not know how well it was served by Dr. Hodgson.”

Leon F. Davis, D.D.S., M.D., professor, oral and maxillofacial surgery

“The timeworn phrase ‘a gentleman and scholar’ aptly described Dr. Hodgson. He was the consummate surgeon and educator. The university was enriched by his presence.”

Michael Sorrell, M.D., Robert L. Grissom Professor of Medicine

“I met Dr. Hodgson when I moved to Omaha in 1999, some years after he retired as chairman of the department of surgery. He attended our Grand Rounds every week. I was impressed that he was a gracious, humble, and personable man, but he could not hide the fact that he was incredibly bright. His attitude was persistently upbeat. His surgical faculty always spoke of him with deference. Whenever I saw him, he would say ‘Hello, Marcus!’ shake my hand, and ask me about the latest project we had going in the lab. I will miss him tremendously.”

Mark A. Carlson, M.D., professor, surgery-general surgery

“It will be difficult for others to overpraise Dr. Hodgson. My clearest memory of Dr. Hodgson is not a meeting, but a sighting. It was about 1980 and I was working in Bethesda, M.D. Several of us had piled into a car to drive to a medical meeting in downtown Washington. As we crossed the Taft Bridge over Rock Creek Park, I saw Dr. Hodgson striding cheerfully and purposefully along the pedestrian walkway. He was smiling with his head up and he was swinging his case. Dr. Hodgson was on his way to teach and to learn. It seems to me that Dr. Hodgson led a nearly perfect life.”

Dan Schafer, M.D., professor, internal medicine-gastroenterology

“It was my privilege to take care of Dr. Hodgson. There was not a more gracious gentleman than Paul. He embodied what an academic physician should be. He was truly dedicated to his career and incredibly patient when it came to house staff. He was a true hero to many of us.”

Dave O’Dell, M.D., LeeRoy Meyer Professor, internal medicine-general medicine

“Paul was the consummate gentleman who had a beautiful way of expressing himself, sometimes lapsing into spontaneously composed poetry or song. His kindness knew no bounds; he had a genuine respect for all living creatures. He became a dear and supportive friend during our 12 delightful years at UNMC.”

Layton “Bing” Rikkers, M.D., former UNMC chair of surgery

“The terms ‘a gentleman and a scholar’ accurately describe Dr. Hodgson. He was extremely easy to talk to and work with, and was very down-to-Earth. Each time I spoke to him I learned something new about medical history. I first met him just a few weeks after I started at UNMC in 2002 at a Friends of the Library meeting. He was not only a friend of the library, but a friend to the library faculty and staff. A few months after I met him he came in and asked if we would possibly want his papers and files, which he had taken home when he retired, for the archives. He said he didn’t think they were so important or significant, but Oz (his lovely wife) wanted him to get the boxes out of the basement!”

John Schleicher, McGoogan Library of Medicine

“Paul was an excellent clinician and a thoughtful teacher. He cared deeply about his patients and would consider his medical decisions with great care. He continued to be involved in the College of Medicine long after his retirement.”

Robert Wigton, M.D., associate dean, graduate medical education, College of Medicine





Tom O'Connor
UNMC Public Relations
(402) 559-4690 (office)
(402) 650-7063 (cell)