Marshfield Clinic farmer's lung researcher dies

Now Media Group


Dr. Dean Emanuel, a longtime Marshfield Clinic cardiologist and world-renowned researcher who sought to cure ailments that afflicted farmers in Wisconsin's rural communities, died Sunday, Feb. 28 in Marshfield. He was 92.

Emanuel, who joined the Clinic's staff in 1958, had a deep interest in respiratory illnesses and farmer's lung disease in addition to his care for his patients with heart disease.

His work, along with the work of Clinic leaders at the time, led to the creation of Marshfield Clinic Research Foundation (MCRF) in 1959. Just one year later, he helped MCRF receive its first National Institutes of Health grant – $40,000 to study Farmer's Lung Disease, a form of chronic pneumonia caused by inhaling mold spores found in baled hay, stored grain or silage with a high moisture content.

Former Marshfield Clinic Executive Director and current interim MCRF Executive Director Fritz Wenzel was a longtime collaborator on Emanuel's research.

"We crawled through silos, haylofts and paper mills together as we studied these lung diseases and through it all, Emanuel's focus was on patients," Wenzel said. "He always said 'We're doing this to make discoveries that will help patients. We have to make sure farmers can continue farming.'"

His accomplishments are many:

· One of the first cardiologists in the U.S. to perform a diagnostic procedure called coronary arteriography.

· Made important contributions in establishing massive pulmonary embolism as a predominantly medical, not surgical disease.

· Pioneer in the Dotter Procedure, a precursor of angioplasty, as a method of providing circulation to diseased limbs before grafting surgery.

· Provided greater understanding of thermophilic fungi, which caused Farmer's Lung. He helped develop a lab at the Clinic used worldwide for serological testing of the disease.

· Further determined the differences of Farmer's Lung and pulmonary mycotoxicosis, an acute illness resulting from massive inhalation of microbial toxins in organic dusts.

· Identified Maple Bark disease among Wisconsin paper mill workers; created occupational recommendations to prevent the respiratory disorder adopted by mills, leading to a precipitous drop of its incidence.

· Authored or co-authored more than 85 published papers in peer review journals.

He was honored by many health care and agriculture organizations with lifetime achievement awards. Emanuel also was instrumental in the creation of the National Farm Medicine Center (NFMC), a program of MCRF.

"While we who knew him will dearly miss him, we can celebrate the peaceful completion of a wonderful, rich and long life," said NFMC Director Dr. Matthew Keifer, current holder of the Dean Emanuel Endowed Chair.

"I've known Dr. Emanuel since I was a resident at Marshfield Clinic and have held him in high esteem not only for his pioneering patient care and research but also for how he cared about the community he loved and the people who work and live here," said Marshfield Clinic Health System Executive Director Dr. Susan Turney.

He is survived by his wife, Lorrie, of Marshfield; his children, Julie Emanuel of Pittsburgh, PA; Dr. Peter and Carla Emanuel, Little Rock, AK; Lisa and Dean Berres of Marshfield, and Jeff and Christine Emanuel, Myrtle Beach, SC; a sister, Judith Young of Hatfield, WI; as well as grandchildren and great-grandchildren. A memorial service to celebrate his life is tentatively planned for May 14 in Marshfield.