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Xavier Magazine | September 25, 2017

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Profile: Paul J. Dunn, M.D.

By France Griggs Sloat

Paul J. Dunn, M.D.
Bachelor of Science in chemistry, 1955 | Retired pediatric physician, Ferryville, Wis.

Primal Knowledge | Though Dunn’s family was of meager means, they believed in education. He graduated from Covington Latin School in Northern Kentucky at age 15 and spent the next few years working odd jobs and attending college classes taught by the bishop of the Diocese of Covington.

Career By Chance | Dunn dreamed of studying aeronautical engineering, but while visiting a hospital in 1940 with his sister, who was interested in nursing, he discovered medicine.

Lightning Strikes | “It just hit me like a lightning bolt that this was what I wanted to do,” he says. “While on the roof of the Fenwick Club sunning myself, I would pray something would happen so I could go to medical school. Then the war happened.”

The Doctor Is In | Dunn joined the Navy and became a pharmacist’s mate. He soon was working in a surgical ward in the Naval Hospital in Great Lakes, Ill., where he filled in when the doctors were out. After a year, he was transferred to the Marines’ medical field service with the 28th Marine Infantry Regiment, the one that raised the U.S. flag on Iwo Jima.

Witness | “I worked in a field station behind the lines stabilizing those injured soldiers who might be saved,” he says. “I was there on the island when the flag went up and saw it from where we were on Mount Suribachi.”

End of the Innocence | “Hour after hour, night and day, the most horrible injuries came in. These Marines were kids, 17, 18, 19 years old. You’d never hear any of them complain.”

Education in Reverse | Shaken but toughened by his experiences, Dunn returned to Xavier, where he’d been studying before the war, and threw himself into his studies. Before he could finish, he was offered enrollment in Loyola University Chicago’s medical school. He graduated in 1951, did post-graduate study in pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, then returned to Xavier to complete his undergraduate degree in 1955.

Time for Family | Dunn met his wife, Kath, a fellow medical student, in his junior year at Loyola. She had similar interests in treating brain-injured children but was sidetracked from her medical career by their family of 10 children—eight boys and two girls.

Out of the Box | While working as a pediatrician, Dunn and Kath started two unique programs: a Montessori school and an institute for the treatment of brain-injured and learning-disabled children, which was popular, but controversial. They later expanded the institute to include adults, offering sensory stimulation and other holistic treatments drawn from osteopathic medicine.

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