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Posted on Sun, May 19, 2013 : 8:46 p.m.

U-M physician killed in weekend crash drew praise from colleagues, patients

By Sven Gustafson

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.


Dr. Steven E. Gradwohl

Photo courtesy U-M Health System

It remained unclear Sunday what caused Gradwohl, who was driving alone, to veer across three lanes of traffic on eastbound I-94, land in a ditch and then slam into the Zeeb Road bridge abutment. A medical examination is pending.

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, 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.


John Milroy

Mon, Jul 1, 2013 : 2:47 p.m.

I just found out about this and I'm so sad. Steven was my Dr. for many years. I found him after going through many others. I appreciated his straight forward yet compassionate manner. He helped me through many difficult times in my life. A truly great man who will be missed. My condolences to his family and friends.


Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 1:15 a.m.

It is such a shame that this wonderful man is being dishonored by Briarwood Family Practice, where his patients, over 3,000, are being told they have to leave the practice as none of the other doctors, his co-workers are willing to take his patients. Shame on Briarwood! Dr. Gradwohl was a caring physician, and the fact that the U of M decided all of his patients are expendable is horrific.


Sat, Jun 22, 2013 : 9:56 p.m.

Dr. Gradwohl was an angel of a doctor. He had that rare gift of making you feel as though "you" were the most important person on the planet to him when you were in his presence. He was so easy to talk to...And would resume the conversation the next time he saw you, which was usually a year if no time has passed at all:). He'd been my PCP for over 15 years. He'd tell it like it is and crack you up in the process. Great sense of humor, trusted experience....I could go on for hours. I'm so sad to hear about the loss of such a wonderful human being. If he would have chosen another profession, he would have excelled at....ANYTHING!!! He truly gave his best, his time, his patience to all his patients. He was truly a light in a dark room. Brilliant in every sense of the word. Tears.


Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 1:16 a.m.

yes he was, and now all of his patients are being tossed out of the Briarwood Practice, as none of his co-workers are willing to take them on.


Thu, May 30, 2013 : 9:26 p.m.

Will there be any update on the autopsy?

Gary Lester

Wed, May 29, 2013 : 11:12 p.m.

Steven was a friend, doctor and caregiver for me for this last 13 years. He has kept this old man alive and well for this period and for many more years to come because of his healing care. He will be missed by me and so many others. Steven thank you. a piece of my heart is missing Gary Lester


Thu, May 30, 2013 : 9:11 p.m.

Will there be any update on the autopsy?


Thu, May 23, 2013 : 2:19 p.m.

Dr. Gradwohl is possiblyfamily. YOu wil the most dedicated doctor and compassionate person I have met and had the privilege of being one of his patients. He was very involved in helping me regain my health and life but continued to help me fine tune life throughout my many years with HIS office . Thank you's aren't enough to his family for sharing this incredible man with his medical family. I will miss him but will think fondly of this great man and his many contributions to medicine. He always had a smile for all and remembered each of us as though we were family. You will be missed, Steve!!!

Tex Treeder

Wed, May 22, 2013 : 12:08 p.m.

I knew Steve as the fellow parent of a high school field hockey player. His running commentaries on the games were both educational and highly entertaining. My thoughts are with his family.

Tonya Mccune-kilburn

Wed, May 22, 2013 : 3:27 a.m.

Dr. Gradwohl has been my doctor for 3 - 4 years! Such a great guy who always had a smile on his face and very dedicated to his patients! I'm still in disbelief about this tragedy! Sleep peacefully Dr Gradwohl! I'm happy to have gotten to know you over these past few years!


Tue, May 21, 2013 : 2:04 a.m.

Doc, was just that, a great doctor, who earned my deepest respect. He had a great sense of humor, came at you straight on how things are or will be regarding your health. I owe him much thanks for looking me straight in my eyes, even though I towered over him and let me know, make changes, hit the gym and be a healther person and because of his words, I did that and I am. He truely will be missed by all and never forgotten.


Mon, May 20, 2013 : 11:49 p.m.

This is such a tragic loss to our community. Steve was one of the best physicians I've had care for me. As it has been said numerous times, he was a friend of mine as well. I will miss him so much, it's so hard to lose someone who has been a significant positive effect on your life. I am very grateful to have been in his care the past several years. My thoughts and prayers are extended to the Gradwohl family.


Mon, May 20, 2013 : 11:17 p.m.

Steve Wow -What a loss. What a shock! Just a reminder how precious life is! Great athlete. Will miss his professional demeanor on and off the racquetball court not to mention his uncanny ability to play excellent billiards. My condolences to Lisa, Kelsey and Alex!

Gordon Dooley

Mon, May 20, 2013 : 11 p.m.

For the last 10 years he was far more than a phenomenal physician he was also my friend. He always made time to talk and not just about my heath, but my life as well . What physician do you know made calls the same night of the apt to make sure I got my prescription filled and asked how I was doing. I could go for days, he will truly be missed. I've never called him Dr. Gradwohl, and I won't start now R.I.P . Dr. G Wohl! !!

Let me be Frank

Mon, May 20, 2013 : 10:52 p.m.

Dr. Gradwohl was the best pcp I ever had. He was a great man and a medical hero. Because of who he was to his patients, and I am sure to his family, friends and colleagues, there is a deep loss and grief in the community. God bless him, his family and all those who have been touched by him.


Mon, May 20, 2013 : 9:37 p.m.

Thoughts and prayers to his family. May they find comfort in all the great things this man did. I knew Steve from the gym where he played racquetball and exercised. I knew he was a DR. and he probably knew I was not but it did not matter. He was always so nice and easy to talk with and happy all the time. May he rest in peace.


Mon, May 20, 2013 : 8:58 p.m.

What makes it even more difficult is that Dr. Gradwohl is one of the few people who could effectively communicate with you to work through understanding such an enormous tragedy. Those of us who were fortunate enough to have him both as friend & doctor have a lot of work to do to fill in the hole his loss has left for us. If that's possible? God Bless his family!


Mon, May 20, 2013 : 8:38 p.m.

I have had the opportunity to have "SEG" as my physician for nearly 20 years. I was also blessed to work with Dr. Gradwohl on a number of projects over the years. He can certainly be classified as a Physician's Physician. It was a heartbreaking experience to see he was associated with this tragedy. He contributed enormously to his patient's, students, and the University. I was amazed and completely shattered when I searched my email for ""SEG"" and found so many positive interactions we have had over the years. Just last week Dr. Gradwohl's name came up with a group of his colleagues, the universal consensus was "he was one of the very good ones". Probably one of the highest praises one will ever heard unsolicited from a group of physicians. My deepest condolences to his family. He will be dearly missed.

Kyle Mattson

Mon, May 20, 2013 : 8:09 p.m.

I just want to extend a thanks to everyone who has shared their memories and condolences of Dr. Gradwohl who clearly touched many lives in our community. We wish the best for his family as they go through this time of loss.

Andrea Stork

Mon, May 20, 2013 : 8:04 p.m.

Lisa, Alex and Kelsey: I am praying for you all. Steve leaves a legacy of laughter, health and compassion. He was a great man and will be missed by everyone who knows him. He will live on through all the people who he helped and loved. God's blessings on you all. Peace / Andrea Stork


Mon, May 20, 2013 : 7:38 p.m.

This is terrible news, absolutely an awful loss to patients, future MDs, and Dr. Gradwohl's friends, colleagues, and family. He was one of the best MDs I've had, and his expertise and humor will be very-much missed.

Resident A2

Mon, May 20, 2013 : 4:37 p.m.

I am so sorry to hear about Dr. Gradwohl's passing. How very tragic. My thoughts and prayers are with his family.


Mon, May 20, 2013 : 3:45 p.m.

Ditto to all the praise already given here! I am devastated and can't stop crying and he wasn't even my friend, just the best physician I've ever had and he is irreplaceable. I am praying for him and his loved ones and will devote a Buddhist service to him. And a Catholic mass.

Paula Gardner

Mon, May 20, 2013 : 3:34 p.m.

I hope all of these thoughtful comments bring comfort to Dr. Gradwohl's family. I just added a new comment to the story from Ron Pudduck.


Mon, May 20, 2013 : 3:18 p.m.

Dr Gradwohl was not only one of the finest doctors in Michigan but my primary care for 18 years but more then that he was one of my dearest friends .I just cant stop crying its losing a huge part of me. He was always there for me day or night he not only treated my medical issues he was there when I just needed a sholder to cry on .He will be forever missed and loved by many.My prayers go out to his wife, Daughters,and family my god give you the comfort you all need in this sad time


Mon, May 20, 2013 : 3:26 p.m.

Sorry to hear of your loss.


Mon, May 20, 2013 : 2:33 p.m.

Steve was a wonderful doctor and friend. He got me through everything from poison ivy to cancer. I looked forward to continuing our relationship for many years. What a terrible loss for his wife and daughters as well as for the community. He always chided me about getting more exercise -- I'm headed to the gym right now!

Jane Elgass

Mon, May 20, 2013 : 2:17 p.m.

I cannot believe that this has happened. I almost did not click on the article I saw first on the U-M site. I've seen him for almost as long as he's been here. I am so distressed I have lost such a valued physician who was a genuinely caring, nice person. I always saw him with my husband as I am handicapped and they had great golf discussions. Once in awhile they'd talk about my problem, whatever it may have been. He was always available - in clinic on short notice, on the phone at home, via pager, or via e-mail, always signed with his succinct "seg." I hope his family revives solace at some point in reading all our comments. He simply cannot be replaced even though hundreds of us will now struggle to find a new doctor. He cannot be "replaced." There simply will be another physician in his stead.

Thomas Catterall

Mon, May 20, 2013 : 2:10 p.m.

I saw Dr. Gradwohl Thursday of this week and he was by far not only my doctor but I considered a friend. He was a great man and easy to admire for the caring and professional attitude he had in medicine! I am not only saddened but hurt by his loss and sad for anyone that never got to know this great man!!


Mon, May 20, 2013 : 2:05 p.m.

When my trusted pcp Scott Furney left, I asked who he recommended, and without hesitation he said Dr. Gradwohl. After going to Dr. G I fully trusted him and enjoyed our visits. I can't believe he is gone.


Mon, May 20, 2013 : 6:51 p.m.

@JimG. Dr. Gradwohl saw me STAT, and I was dying. He did not know me. It was a simple referral to him by a nurse friend. Since that time, in 2001, he's been my pcp. Since reading the article I've been devastated. Slow realizations of the reality of this tragedy. I'm not clear any of us will ever fully realize he is gone; denial works in mysterious ways. Hang in there and know others are profoundly impacted. I can not even "touch" the grief and loss his family must be going through. dea

Jonathan Cohn

Mon, May 20, 2013 : 1:41 p.m.

Heartbroken to hear the news. Steve was a wonderful physician -- somebody who obviously loved what he was doing and cared deeply for the well-being of his patients. Like so many of them, I will miss him. My heart goes out to his family and friends.

Farmer Jack

Mon, May 20, 2013 : 1:03 p.m.

Steven the most patient focused physician that i've known. I knew if i had a 10 am appointment that I'd be in and out quickly. SEG he came out to the waiting room to get the patients if staff was backed up with other patients. I rarely waited more than a hour or two for an email reply and was always shocked that I even would receive a reply when he was off on vacation. AND that just the frosting on the cake. He was concerned for my health, he had interest in my life generally and was always friendly and helpful. I wasn't even aware of his work outside of seeing patients at the BMG, but we're all better off for the work he did training new doctors. Being the same age as SEG, i was worried about having to find a new doc in 10-15 years when he was ready to retire... it's just horrible that he won't have those years. My condolences to his family and hope that it's some comfort to know how much he is loved and respected by his patients.


Mon, May 20, 2013 : 12:50 p.m.

May his memory inspire us all to make as much of a difference in people's lives as he did. I am just heartbroken.

Sam S Smith

Mon, May 20, 2013 : 12:36 p.m.

Special thoughts and prayers for Dr. Gradwohl, his family, friends and patients!


Mon, May 20, 2013 : 12:15 p.m.

Well, I should not be surprised to read my own thoughts posted by many others here. SEG obviously touched a lot of people as a physician. He's been my doctor for about a decade and I felt safe in his care. He always squeezed me in to his booked schedule when I needed it. He always responded to my emails. And last summer, when I was going through a very difficult medical issue and living at a distance, he made sure I had everything I needed to be well. Just yesterday (before I learned of his death) I thought to myself that I should write a letter to Briarwood Medical Group praising how he went above and beyond. Then I visit this morning to see the headline that U-M physician died... I went to click thinking "please don't let it be him. What are the chances??" I was heartbroken and stunned to see his picture. This guys was the picture of vitality so I'm having a really hard time wrapping my mind around him not being alive. As a doctor, he is irreplaceable. I can't even imagine what his family and loved ones are going through. You were the best, SEG.


Mon, May 20, 2013 : 12:09 p.m.

Dr. Gradwohl was my husbands pcp, he was an amazing doctor. More should strive to be like him.We are still in disbelief he is gone. I had no idea his wife is one of the NPs at our peds office. I've seen her on more than one occasion. She has the same high standards as her husband. Clearly an extraordinary couple. My prayers and sympathies for his wife and daughters. I'm not surprised at all reading this article, comments here, and on the article about the accident that Dr. Gradwohl was loved not only by his patients, but his fellow Drs. This is truly a tremendous loss for the medical community, and for all the family and friends who loved him dearly.


Mon, May 20, 2013 : 12:09 p.m.

He was my Doctor, and has been responsible for my good health for almost 20 years. I'll truly miss him and his thoughtful care as a physician and I can honestly say, as a friend. We shared an interest in theatre performance, which was frequently a topic during my visits to Steven at Briarwood Medical. My heart and prayers go out to Dr. Gradwohl's family.


Mon, May 20, 2013 : 11:59 a.m.

SEG, not only did you tend to my physical needs, but helped me through those difficult times following the loss of a family member. How many times can I say thank you? You will remain with us; never to be forgotten. Rest in peace.


Mon, May 20, 2013 : 11:25 a.m.

It's difficult to even write that phrase-- "Steve was..." instead of "Steve is..". He always showed up 100% for his patients. My family (and extended family) relied upon him as our primary physician and caregiver for nearly 20 years. Over that time, he became a trusted and forthright friend to all of us. Our sincere condolences to his wife Lisa, Kelsey and Alex. Alex and Kelsey, your dad was an amazing and compassionate individual. We miss him. Elizabeth, Matt and Mark Hurwitz and Jeff Belanger. Ann Arbor and Seattle, WA.


Mon, May 20, 2013 : 11:14 a.m.

Seven or eight years ago Dr. Gradwohl was placed in the unenviable position of having to tell me I had cancer. Despite having only met me once a few days earlier, and me not having a clue what the word "melanoma" meant, he broke the news to me with caring, compassion, and humor. I will never forget his kindness and support.


Mon, May 20, 2013 : 2:05 a.m.

What a profound loss for Dr. Gradwohl's family and our community. My heart goes out to his family and friends and will keep all of you in my thoughts and prayers...I'm so very sorry for your loss.


Mon, May 20, 2013 : 2 a.m.

Ok, I have tried several times to write a comment but I find it impossible. I cannot put into words how this extraordinary man has impacted my life. Losing SEG sucks.


Mon, May 20, 2013 : 11:01 a.m.

What a2roots said. We will miss you Dr. G.


Mon, May 20, 2013 : 8:59 a.m.

Dr. Gradwohl saved my life more than once. I've tried to write a succinct comment only to ramble on and on--totally devastated. It is pure horror that his family must go through grieving and loss; that the University has lost a true Medical Warrior and Humanist; that his many patients will grieve profoundly goes without saying. @a2roots--"me too, same." A comment would be a novel.


Mon, May 20, 2013 : 1:48 a.m.

Steve was a wonderful person and will be missed by so many.