Dr. Francis Curtis Dohan Jr.
November 10, 1935 – November 16, 2021
The Memphis medical community is mourning the loss of F. Curtis Dohan, Jr., MD, who died at home surrounded by his family on November 16, 2021, following a battle with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.
Dr. Dohan moved to Memphis in 1984 to become the Director of Neuropathology at the Univ. of Tennessee – Memphis, College of Medicine. He held that position for a quarter of a century. Although he was an acknowledged contributor in the international research community, he was best known locally as an exceptionally gifted teacher and speaker. During much of the 1980s and 1990s, following a busy work-week, he routinely packed a seminar room at the Semmes Murphey Clinic on Saturday mornings with residents from five different specialties wanting to learn more about brain tumors. In 1986 he won the University of Tennessee Neurosurgery Resident Teaching Award. Beginning in 1991, Curt dedicated himself to refining his late father’s work on gluten and schizophrenia. He spent the next thirty years researching the biology of schizophrenia and the genetic basis for intestinal permeability in celiac disease, schizophrenia, and autism in relation to the consumption of gluten-containing grains.
Curt was born in Philadelphia, PA, to Marie Postenrieder Dohan, a Ph.D.-sociologist, and F. Curtis Dohan Sr., a research endocrinologist. He was valedictorian of Lower Merion high school, where he was a wrestler and played viola in the school orchestra. He graduated from Princeton University in 1957, where he majored in physics, was a varsity wrestler, and a member of Ivy Club. After graduating from Harvard Medical School in 1961, Curt was a resident in internal medicine at Bellevue Hospital in New York City before becoming a research associate at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. In 1968 he returned to Boston to work in the laboratory of Nobel laureate John F. Enders at Children's Hospital. Between 1977 and 1983 Curt completed residency training in pathology at the Massachusetts General Hospital, in neuropathology at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and in pediatric neuropathology at Boston Children's Hospital. Throughout his medical career, Curt was an investigator and a teacher with a desire for perfection that Michelangelo would have admired. Yet, he was a consistently gracious gentleman, who taught by example how to be a compassionate physician and a generous human being, always seeing the best in people and saying thank you whenever it was remotely appropriate.
Curt had a positive outlook, a charming sense of humor, and a trove of well-rehearsed jokes. He enjoyed screwball comedies, his four dogs, and intellectual discussions with his wife, Jean. He was a denizen of the Summer Avenue Baskin Robbins, where the employees knew him by name. Curt was often seen at the South Main Trolley Night with his Old English Sheepdog, Chaucer. He dedicated himself to studying harmony and enjoyed learning from other musicians. He enthusiastically volunteered to act in his daughter’s theatrical projects.
Curt’s family and friends appreciated him for his patience and unbounded curiosity, his passion for learning, and his encyclopedic brain. Curt was fascinated by history, people, and the natural world, and his contagious enthusiasm made him a fantastic storyteller. He had a gift for explaining scientific concepts and cared deeply about science education. This was evident in the neuroscience exhibit that he brought to the Pink Palace Museum and in his discussions with anyone interested in learning about the intricacies of the brain, which he called “the most complex structure in the universe.” He had a sense of reverence towards his work as part of something larger than himself, and he imparted this fascination and awe to anyone lucky enough to know him.
Curt’s life goal was to help people through medicine. He wanted everyone to be healthy and happy. Family and friends felt they had their own personal physician, who would troubleshoot their medical issues at any time.
He is survived by his wife, Jean Rittmueller, his two children, Katherine and David, and his two brothers, Michael and Peter.
A celebration of Curt’s life will be held at his home in Memphis in early April. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the donor’s charity of choice or--to further Curt’s work on schizophrenia--to “Johns Hopkins University,” referencing the “Dohan Family Account” in the “School of Public Health” (c/o Morgan Martin, 615 N. Wolfe St., E2132, Baltimore, MD 21205).
Fond memories and expressions of sympathy may be shared at www.MemphisFuneralPoplar.com for Dr. Dohan's family.
No public services are scheduled at this time. Receive a notification when services are updated.
Dr. Francis Curtis Dohan Jr.
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November 29, 2021
Sending our thoughts and prayers to Jean, Katherine and David.
Dr. Dohan was our neighbor - we've shared a driveway since moving in 10 years ago - but unfortunately, we didn't have the opportunity to really get to know him as he was battling health issues. However, as mentioned, he was invaluable in providing medical advice and referring me to the best physician for my insistent back issues. He even called me directly. It made my day!
Over the years, we saw how deeply he was loved by his family, his friends and his caretakers, which shows what a special person he was.
Knowing that his critical research (his legacy) will live on is truly incredible.
By the grace of God, he is no longer suffering and we look forward to celebrating his life with his family in the Spring.
Justin, Tina, Merrick, Reese, Harrison and Bernie Miller
November 28, 2021
I originally met Curt at UT. Later I enjoyed getting to know him and Jean when my son played with his school friend David at their Wallace Rd. home. Curt, a medical scientist, was always so welcoming and respectful to a layperson such as myself. I especially enjoyed his demonstrations of programming his electronic piano — the first such piano I had seen (not being like the more common electric organ or player piano.)
November 28, 2021
So sad to hear the news of the loss of our friend and colleague. Curt was truly *one of a kind." The world is poorer without him but richer for his memory.
Miriam and I send our condolences to Jean and to his entire family.