The Association was notified of the passing of Donald P. Vrabec, MD who passed on January 7, 2021 after an extended illness. Dr. Vrabec was inducted as an Active Fellow in 1980 and elevated 23 years later to Emeritus status in 2002.
He often referred to himself as “The man from Smock” that was a small coal mining town southeast of Pittsburgh, PA, Dr. Vrabec graduated from Uniontown Senior High School where he played football and excelled academically. After receiving his graduating summa cum laude with a degree in pharmacy from the University of Pittsburgh, he received his medical degree from its School of Medicine in 1959. This was followed by service in the U.S. Army Medical Corps at Tripler Army Base in Honolulu, Hawaii. Dr. Vrabec completed residency training at the Mayo Graduate School of Medicine in 1966 as well as post graduate study of laryngology in 1967 where he received the prestigious E. Starr Judd award for surgical excellence. This was followed by a fellowship at the Kresge Hearing and Research Institute at the University of Michigan, where his research earned international recognition.
Joining the Geisinger Medical Center Department of Otolaryngology after completing his training, Dr. Vrabec’ s practice was concentrated on Head and Neck Surgery and Oncology, the training of numerous residents, and rising to serve as the department chair from 1984 until he retired in 2000. Realizing that many of his cancer patients traveled long distances for treatment, Dr. Vrabec was inspired to create the House of Care in 1984 for which he was presented the AAO-HNS Jerome C. Goldstein Public Service Award in 1996. Geisinger renamed this facility that had housed more than 80,000 worldwide patients the Vrabec House of Care in 2014 to honor him.
In addition to being an active member of the ALA, Dr. Vrabec was also an active member of the Pennsylvania Academy of Otolaryngology and Ophthalmology (president in 1985), American Academy of Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery, the American Brochoesophalogical Association, and the Triological Society. His belief in higher education with the understanding of the burden and barriers its cost to obtain led to the creation of the Vrabec scholarship at his alma mater, the University of Pittsburgh. This scholarship provides aid those from southeast Pennsylvania pursuing education in pharmacy or medicine.
When not attending to the healthcare needs of his patients, Dr. Vrabec was an avid sportsman who also enjoyed gardening, wine making, guitar and car collecting. A voracious reader of history, mystery and Shakespeare, he also loved trivia and had a wry sense of humor and a ready laugh.
He is survived by his wife of 61 years, Eleanor; his children: Tamara, Jeffrey, and Keith; his siblings: Anna Eleanor and Judith; and his six grandchildren.