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  February 20, 2001

Respected Orthopaedic Surgeon Dies

Harry R. Gossling, orthopaedic surgeon and a professor of surgery in the UConn School of Medicine, died on Feb. 14 of lung cancer. He was 78.

Gossling, a former chair of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, played a key role in the establishment at the Health Center of the Helen and Harry Gray/Harry R. Gossling M.D. Chair in Orthopaedic Surgery. He also established the Orthopaedic Residency Program.

"I want you to know that your contributions to the Health Center were monumental," Peter J. Deckers, dean of the School of Medicine and executive vice president for health affairs, wrote in a recent note to Gossling. "I considered (and still consider) you my role model in trying to do what was correct and appropriate regarding hospital and program affiliations in Hartford," Deckers wrote. "'No man is a prophet in his own time and town' but one day your vision will be achieved."

Gossling was born July 20, 1922, in Philadelphia, Pa., and attended Trinity College in Hartford. Early in his career, "Goose" Gossling was a football hero, until sidelined by an injury. He went on to become a student leader and a scholar. When World War II broke out, he was drafted for military service, but was able to complete his M.D. degree in 1947.

He returned to Hartford for an internship and residency year in surgery at Hartford Hospital. He studied orthopaedics at the Campbell clinic in Memphis from 1949 to 1954. In the middle of his training he spent two years as an orthopaedic surgeon in the U.S. Army Medical Corps caring for soldiers wounded in the Korean War. Also during that time he earned a master of science degree in orthopaedic surgery from the University of Tennessee.

Gossling returned to Hartford in 1954 to enter private practice at Hartford Hospital. He was on the attending staff at the Newington Children's Hospital and the Newington VA Hospital. In 1976 he was appointed professor and chair of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery in the UConn School of Medicine. He remained chair until 1990.

"White-haired and kindly, Harry appeared to have stepped out of a Norman Rockwell painting," says Bruce Browner, the Helen and Harry Gray/Harry R. Gossling Chair in Orthopaedic Surgery. "He was an extraordinary physician and orthopaedic surgeon.

"His patients always knew he cared deeply for them and he would do anything to help solve their problems. He loved orthopaedics passionately. While he did stop operating at age 70, he continued to see patients in the office several times a week until his illness forced him to stop.

"Harry was a great educator and mentor," adds Browner. "He always had time for medical students, residents, and faculty. He attended faithfully and participated actively in all of the orthopaedic conferences into his final year. His opinions were always supported by science and vast experience."

Gossling had many interests, as demonstrated by the varied subjects of his research and publications. He was one of the first in the country to perform total hip surgery and wrote about antibiotic prophylaxis of infection. He wrote a number of papers about the treatment of Legg Calve Perthes Disease. He had an interest in electrical stimulation of fracture healing and served as a principal consultant to Bioelectron, one of the major manufactures of this technology. He was fascinated by foot and ankle surgery and rehabilitation, subjects which were ignored by the majority of his contemporaries, says Browner.

Gossling was active in his profession nationally and internationally. In addition to memberships in numerous local and regional orthopaedic surgery groups, he served as president of the Eastern Orthopaedic Society and vice president of the American Orthopaedic Society. He published many scientific papers and was a visiting professor on many occasions nationally and internationally.

Gossling served on the board of directors of the Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation, and was chair of the Hospital Board and later, the Center Board, at the Hospital for Special Care in New Britain.

Gossling is survived by his wife of 55 years, Marion; a son, a daughter, and three grandchildren.

The funeral service was held at Trinity College Chapel on Feb. 17.

Patrick Keefe