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Eulogy for Dr. Duane Sewell

Dr. Scott Strome gave the following eulogy at the memorial service for Dr. Sewell that took place on Sunday, December 18, 2011 in Westminster Hall.

You can tell a lot about a person by the friends they keep and the way they celebrate success. I am privileged to call Duane Sewell my friend. We have a tradition in our program, that when you are promoted to the rank of Associate Professor, we go out to dinner with the rest of the Associate Professors in the Department. When Duane was promoted to Associate Professor, I asked him where he would like to go to celebrate this special occasion. I said, "there are some wonderful restaurants in Baltimore and expense is no issue." Duane said, "Scott that's not how I want to celebrate. I want to go to the Ball Game and sit outside with my friends." Soon after, Jeff Wolf, Rodney Taylor, Duane and I sat outside in the bleachers watching the Baltimore Orioles beat to the Yankees, eating our dinners and celebrating Duane. You can tell a lot about a person by the friends they choose and how they celebrate success.

You can tell a lot about a person by the career they choose. Duane chose a career as a physician - a caretaker in the truest sense of the word. He received his undergraduate degree from Harvard University and then matriculated to the University of Pennsylvania for Medical School. Following medical school he performed his internship and residency in the Department of OTO-HNS at Johns Hopkins University, one of the most prestigious training institutions in the United States. Duane was then awarded a highly competitive fellowship in Head and Neck surgery at the University of Pennsylvania, and was subsequently retained as faculty. In 2007, I was very fortunate to recruit Duane to the University of Maryland to run our head and neck program and to pursue his passion of becoming a translational researcher.

Having the privilege to work with Duane as a friend and a colleague was, and always will be, one of the highlights of my life. While he came to Maryland for research mentorship, in so many ways, he was my mentor. I watched him care so deeply for his patients, celebrating their successes and comforting them during their times of need. In this age when Medicine is undergoing profound change, Duane Sewell was a physician in the truest sense of the word. In addition to his clinical practice, Duane sought to better the lives of his patients through his research endeavors. While he never had the opportunity to see his discoveries fully translated into clinical practice, we and others will use his work as a foundation to treat subsequent generations of patients afflicted with head and neck cancer. You can tell a lot about a person by the career they choose.

You can tell the most about a person by the way they value their family. Duane was raised by a wonderful Mother and Father and had the companionship of a caring sister, all of whom served as the foundation for his system of values and his faith. Duane has a wonderful wife Catherine who, in our private conversations, he always referred to as his "rock." Through this painful process, I have come to know Catherine as a truly remarkable woman and as an acronym for everything that's good about the word "family." Between them, Duane and Catherine have two wonderful children, Sean and Joshua, who I am confident will internalize their fathers values and perhaps more importantly the principles on which he stood - principles of faith, integrity, love, friendship, and family. You can tell the most about a person by the way they value their family.

There is a beautiful story about Itzhak Pearlman, perhaps the greatest violinist of our time. While I cannot validate the details of the story, or for that matter, document if this event ever occurred, it is the symbolism that is important. One evening while Pearlman was giving a concert one of the strings on his violin unexpectedly broke. The audience sat expectantly, patiently awaiting Pearlman to change his string. In fact that's not what occurred. Instead he simply continued playing what was perhaps his greatest concert - a concert on three strings. As I stand here today, I know that Catherine and the boys will continue to make beautiful music on 3 strings. With the loving support of their family, friends and community, the violin will always exist. And while the fourth string is no longer tangible, it is very clear that its existence will always influence the music that the other three will play.

Sometimes on a cool fall night when the air is crisp and the sky is clear, I stand and look at the stars. I am always amazed that the light I am seeing may have left those stars millions of years ago and that, in fact, the planets from which that light emanated may no longer exist. Duane, even though you are no longer here physically, the light which emanated from your life, will always influence those who have had the privilege of being within your company. For me, your life embodied what it means to be a man, what it means for me to be a physician, and perhaps most importantly, what it means to be a decent human being. The lessons you shared and the values you held will remain with me for as long as I live. I love you.

This page was last updated on: December 21, 2011.