The September 2001 edition of Hearing Review features a story about how David Fabry, PhD, left, and Thomas McDonald, MD, led a team of 17 audiologists and 14 ENT physicians at the Mayo Clinic Rochester.

The September 2001 edition of Hearing Review features a story about how David Fabry, PhD, left, and Thomas McDonald, MD, led a team of 17 audiologists and 14 ENT physicians at the Mayo Clinic Rochester.


Thomas McDonald, MD, chair of Mayo Clinic’s Department of Otorhinolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery from 1990-2003 and Vice Chairman of Mayo Clinic’s Board of Governors, died at his home surrounded by his loving wife and family on Tuesday, September 10. He was 79.

According to his obituary, Dr McDonald amassed an impressive bibliography approaching 400 publications.  Throughout his career, and even after retirement, he was instrumental in training hundreds of surgical residents and had a tremendous positive influence over the lives and careers of countless healthcare professionals, including audiologists, from around the world.  The September 2001 edition of Hearing Review featured the work of Dr McDonald and colleagues including David Fabry, Jon Shallop, Martin Robinette, Robert Brey, Anna Peterson, Darrell Rose, and others, as well as the research McDonald was conducting at that time on immunal suppressive agents with Drs Eric Matteson, Scott Strome, and Colin Driscoll.

Dr McDonald was the recipient of numerous national and international awards, and retired on January 2, 2007 after serving 39 years at Mayo Clinic.

Dr Thomas McDonald

Dr Thomas McDonald

McDonald was born in Ballynahinch, County Down, Northern Ireland, in 1940, and graduated from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland in 1963. He completed a year-long internship in Dublin, then emigrating to the United States for an internship at St. Mary’s Hospital in Saginaw, Mich, where he met Mary Brown, a nursing student who was to become his wife of 53 years.

He served in the US Army Medical Corps from 1965-1968 where he attained the rank of Captain, and was deployed as a combat surgeon at the 12th Evac Hospital in Cu Chi, Vietnam from 1966-1967 and he was decorated for bravery.  After completing his military service, he served his residency at the Mayo Graduate School of Medicine in Rochester, Minn, from 1968-1972.  He joined the staff of Mayo Clinic as a consultant in the Department of Otorhinolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery on April 1972 and became Professor at Mayo Medical School in 1988. He was appointed Chair of the Department in 1990, and served in that position until September 2003.  In 1990, he was made an Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland.

According to his obituary, his passion for medicine was equaled, if not eclipsed, by his love for his wife and five boys. He was a voracious reader and an enthusiastic student of the theater and classical music. He enjoyed jogging with friends, as well as playing racquetball and tennis.  He was a Minnesota Vikings fan and he enjoyed a lifelong love affair with rugby which he played for many years in Ireland.

Survivors include his wife, Mary, four sons, and seven grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his parents, two brothers and one sister, and his son Robbie who tragically perished in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorial gifts to the Robb McDonald Shakespearean Scholarship (go to lourdesfoundation.org or mail a check to Lourdes Foundation, 2800 19th St NW, Rochester, MN 55901).

HR thanks Dr Fabry for alerting us to Dr McDonald’s passing.