U-M physician killed in weekend crash drew praise from colleagues, patients
The Ann Arbor internal medicine practitioner who died in an automobile crash on I-94 Saturday was a highly decorated doctor and educator known among his University of Michigan colleagues as a "physician's physician" for his devotion to both the craft and teaching of medicine. Dr. Steven E. Gradwohl was 51.
Photo courtesy U-M Health System
Gradwohl was a decorated physician and a faculty member of the U-M Medical School, where he was a clinical assistant professor of internal medicine. He practiced general internal medicine at the Briarwood Medical Group.
"Steve was a wonderful colleague, friend and one of our finest physicians," James O. Woolliscroft, dean of the Medical School, said in a statement released by the U-M Health System. "From his dedicated, empathic and compassionate care for his patients, to his ready availability and willingness to assist colleagues, to his commitment to the education of the next generation of physicians, everyone who came to know Steve was better for it.
"We will all miss his warmth, humor and intellect. May his family find comfort in knowing how much he was respected and admired by his friends and colleagues at U-M."
Gradwohl was recruited to U-M in 1994 to teach on the subject of clinical outpatient care. He was chosen as an inaugural member of he Clinical Excellence Society, and he received an Outstanding Clinician Award from the U-M Medical School in 2012.
"Once here, Gradwohl quickly became one of the busiest and most sought-after faculty members in the Department of Internal Medicine, often leading the primary care faculty group in the numbers of patients seen, as well as in attracting some of the most complex patients across multiple general practices," a program from the 2012 ceremony states. "One indicator of his colleagues' high regard for him is how many of them, along with their families and friends, count him as their doctor."
Gradwohl was a member of the Executive Committee on Clinical Affairs, a team of top U-M clinicians who advise leadership on clinical topics and physician credentialing. He was also a leader in the Urinary Tract Infection Guideline Group and taught interns and residents at the Briarwood Health Center.
"Being a primary care physician has been unbelievably rewarding for me," Gradwohl was quoted as saying in the awards program. "There are many other fields with higher pay, and perhaps shorter hours, but none that rivals being a patient's primary health care provider."
Gradwohl earned his undergraduate degree from Carleton College, was a 1987 graduate of the Pritzker School of Medicine at the University of Chicago and completed his residency in 1990 at the Letterman Army Medical Center in San Francisco. While in the Army, he served medical leadership posts at Fort Lee, Va. and at the Presidio in San Francisco, and he earned the U.S. Army Surgeon General's Physician Recognition Award, two Meritorious Service medals and two Army Commendation medals.
His bio on the UMHS website lists his clinical interests as preventive medicine, infectious diseases, heart disease, high cholesterol and diabetes. In his free time, Gradwohl enjoyed running, playing racquetball and cooking.
In a comments thread below the story about the fatal crash, AnnArbor.com readers praised Gradwohl and expressed shock and sadness over his passing.
Tom Diroff, who works in IT for the U-M Health System, said Gradwohl was always accessible to him and other members of his family. Gradwohl would personally call to report lab results even if it was late, was readily accessible via email and always made arrangements to fit him into his busy schedule, Diroff said.
"My son is just starting medical school and wants to go into family practice and I fervently hope that he will follow Dr. Gradwohl's lead in how to do it the right way," Diroff said in an email.
"He always told it to me straight, he never just told me what I wanted to hear as patient," added Kay Connelly, a patient of Gradwohl's since 2004. "He was very good delivering news, whether it was good or bad news, and giving me advice that could help me throughout my lifetime."
"He was one of probably the top two or three (racquetball) players in town, known for his speed and competitiveness," said Ron Pudduck, a retired Ann Arbor school teacher who played racquetball with Gradwohl and later grew to be close friends with his family.
Lisa Mann, Gradwohl's widowed wife, works as a pediatric nurse practitioner at IHA Child Health, where Connelly's husband, Dr. William Chamness, is a partner.
A woman who answered the phone Sunday at Gradwohl's Ann Arbor residence and identified herself as Mann's sister said funeral arrangements have yet to be made. Plans for a Primary Care General Medicine Award and Lectureship honoring Dr. Gradwohl are under way, the U-M Health System said.
Gradwohl is survived by his wife and their two daughters, Alexandra and Kelsey.