School of Medicine

Honoring the legacy of Alan B. Gazzaniga, MD, 1936-2022

Dr. Alan Gazzaniga

Alan B. Gazzaniga, MD, professor emeritus, Department of Surgery, UCI School of Medicine, died peacefully in his home on Friday, June 17, 2022.

Dr. Gazzaniga was recruited to join UCI in 1970 and served as professor and chief of the Department of Surgery, Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery. From 1970-1987, he also led the Division of Trauma and Critical Care at UCI and was named the Department of Surgery John E. Connolly Chair.

An iconic figure, Dr. Gazzaniga was responsible for several remarkable achievements in medicine. He was amongst the first in the county to develop the concept of having paramedics or EMTs assist patients with injuries prior to arriving at the hospital. He also established the Orange County Fire Department EMT program, and in 1979 he published the first textbook for paramedics, Emergency Care Principles.

Along with the help of his fellow, Peter Bent Brigham, MD, and his resident, Robert Bartlett, MD, Dr. Gazzaniga established the UCI Surgical Research Program and developed ECMO, a heart and lung life-support device that is now used in hospitals around the world. Dr. Gazzaniga was the first physician to perform a prolonged cardiopulmonary bypass on an infant with heart failure after a complicated heart repair, which broadened the application of ECMO for the pediatric population.

Along with Edwards Laboratories and his resident Robert Bartlett, MD, Dr. Gazzaniga developed the incentive spirometer to prevent lung complications after surgery, a device which is now standard medical equipment.

Dr. Gazzaniga and his wife, Shae, also established the Gazzaniga Family Medical Research Award to support biomedical research conducted by graduate students. Each year, the merit-based award is given to a student with outstanding academic credentials and a promising biomedical study underway. With this endowment, the Gazzaniga family can further a long and illustrious family legacy in medicine.

“We are so pleased that the Gazzaniga family understands the importance of supporting graduate students who are pursuing careers in biomedical research,” said Klemens Hertel, PhD, former associate dean for graduate studies and professor in the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics. “These students are the researchers of the next generation, supporting them means supporting medicine of the future.”

Dr. Gazzaniga was a formidable researcher with countless publications ranging from early ECMO and thoracoscopy to all facets of trauma and cardiac care. Later in his career, he went on to practice adult and pediatric general surgery, while continuing his practice in thoracic surgery at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange.

Dr. Gazzaniga graduated from Harvard Medical School in 1961, and then served as a resident for two years in the U.S. Navy as a First Lieutenant. After his service in the military, he completed residencies in adult cardiovascular surgery training at Brigham Hospital and pediatric cardiovascular surgery at Children's Hospital in Boston.

He is survived by his wife Sheila (Shae) and four children, David, Michael, Kathleen and Andrea, and ten grandchildren. Michael and Kathleen are alumni of UCI.

Dr. Gazzaniga was a beloved personality and committed leader. We extend our deepest condolences to his family and friends.

More about the remarkable life and achievements of Dr. Gazzaniga may be found in his obituary.