OAS Mourns the Loss of Dr. Gary Lee Fanning – A true teacher and a world leader of ophthalmic anesthesia
By Professor Chandra M. Kumar
It is an honour to write this tribute to Dr Gary Lee Fanning - a friend, teacher, scholar, educationalist, husband, father, and son. In whatever role we have known him and from whatever vantage point, he stood apart as someone special!
Gary was born and raised in Rochester, New York. He was educated at Hamilton College in Clinton and received his medical degree from the Suny Upstate Medical School, Syracuse, New York, in 1966. After completion of his internship and residency in anaesthesia at University of Rochester, he served the US Army for 2 years. He then settled and practiced anaesthesia in IOWA for 20 years. Subsequently he was persuaded by his future employers, Lynn Hauser and Neil Ross, to relocate his practice to Hauser-Ross Eye Institute, Sycamore, Northern Illinois. However, Lynn and Neil persuaded Gary to meet and undergo apprenticeship with Dr Bob Hustead, Wichita, USA before start working in their eye hospital. Together they performed anatomical dissection that they recorded and shared their experience at Ophthalmic Anesthesia Society meetings. Gary embraced ophthalmic anaesthesia and “hadn’t regretted it for one moment” on that career change decision. He recalled later that “learning orbital anatomy first hand from the two of them was one of the most wonderful gifts I have ever received”. Later he met Roy (Robert) Hamilton, Calgary, Canada, another stalwart of ophthalmic anaesthesia.
Gary worked at Hauser-Ross Eye Institute until his retirement. He and his wife, Arline, then moved to Apple Valley, Minnesota to be near their daughter and grandchildren. He developed a passion for Minneapolis zoo and became a part time volunteer guide. He also published a book, “Things I didn’t learn in medical school: tough lessons from a lifetime of practice”, in 2012 which he shared his lifetime experiences, campaign for respect of fellow human beings, and made many recommendations for physicians on how to behave to maintain respect of the public. Gary sadly died on 4th January due to Covid-19.
Legacies of Gary L Fanning through the eyes of the United Kingdom and world ophthalmic anaesthetists
Gary was well known in North American ophthalmic anaesthesia circles. I was introduced to Gary by Dr Anthony Rubin (London, UK) and Dr Robert Johnson (Bristol, UK). Subsequently I invited Gary to the Middlesbrough videoconference on ophthalmic anaesthesia (which I organised) as a speaker and workshop leader (1998), and this began his relationship with the British ophthalmic anaesthetists. British Ophthalmic Anaesthesia Society (BOAS) was already formed in May 1998 and Gary attended as one of the invited guest to the council meeting of BOAS on 26th November 1998 (Post House Hotel, Middlesbrough, UK). His special teaching abilities and charismatic personality were readily apparent! That meeting also marked the beginning of our longstanding friendship, scientific contributions, and scholar collaborations. Gary had since became a regular invited speaker to Middlesbrough videoconference as well as BOAS annual scientific meetings for which he received BOAS “Life Time Achievement Award” in June 2003.
During the late 1990’s, Gary was the scientific organiser of Ophthalmic Anesthesia Society (OAS) and most of its meetings were held in Chicago. Gay invited Chris Dodds, David Smerdon and Chandra Kumar (all from Middlesbrough) to the OAS meeting in Chicago and that visit culminated in the organisation of the 1st Scientific Meeting of British Ophthalmic Anaesthesia Society (BOAS). Gary was instrumental in bringing several speakers from North America (Gary Fanning, Bob Hustead, Roy Hamilton, Scot Greenbaum, Ken Rosenthal, David Wong) to the inaugural BOAS Annual Scientific Meeting in Middlesbrough on 17-19th June 1999. That meeting was attended by more 200 delegates, mostly from UK but also from Egypt, Portugal, France and other countries) which led the propagation and safer culture of ophthalmic anaesthesia in many countries.
Gary and I thought of making ophthalmic anaesthesia safer in other parts of the world and this led to the founding of the 1st World Congress of Ophthalmic Anaesthesia (WCOA), held in London 2004. It was a truly international congress consisting of 40 international speakers and around 300 delegates from different parts of the world.
Gary Fanning’s name is familiar to most ophthalmic anaesthetists through the textbook of Ophthalmic Anaesthesia (co-edited with Chris Dodds and Chandra M Kumar), published in 2002 by Swets and Zeitlinger, Netherland) and other scientific contributions. He was methodical, meticulous, and diligent in his editing process. He took one-week annual leave, came to England, and edited the book with us. Although he worked in a small, dedicated eye institution, mostly with the help of nurses, he was a true clinical scientist in his heart. He had published a few interesting articles and it was an honour and privilege that I had collaborated and co-authored in some of his publications in high impact factor journals.
Gary’s contributions to ophthalmic anaesthesia and patient care may not seem that significant to others. However, to those who knew or worked with him, his impact has been immense in caring for patients undergoing ophthalmic anaesthesia, particularly under regional and local anaesthesia. He was always a champion for the trainees and a stickler for meticulous care. Those who were fortunate to have spent time with him had learned just how much more there was to him. I can say with pride and honesty that whatever I am today, Gary was partly responsible, and whom I am proud to have called a friend.
Gary’s contributions were powerful and his work ethic was more than remarkable. He was unique and will be sorely missed as a colleague, scholar and friend. He was also a caring and family man, and will be missed by many, but never will he be forgotten by those who were fortunate enough to have known him! Gary’s legacies will be remembered for years.