Paul D. Bruns, MD

Paul Bruns


Paul D. Bruns died of a heart attack in Palm Springs, California, on March 24, 1996. In 1983 he had undergone successful coronary bypass surgery, which enabled him to continue an active and productive life.

In addition to being an excellent teacher, investigator, and clinician, Paul had a wonderful disposition. Wherever he worked he was liked by students, patients, nurses, and fellow physicians. We worked together at the University of Colorado from 1949 to 1966. It was our loss when Paul left to become chairman of obstetrics and gynecology at Georgetown University in 1966, a position he held with distinction until his retirement from that institution in 1980.

While chairman at Georgetown Paul Bruns organized a strong full-time faculty. Andre' Hellegers joined him and established an institute for the study of medical ethics. Soon Drs. John Schruefer, Sam Seeds, and Joseph Collea joined the faculty. Paul proceeded to establish divisions of Maternal-Fetal Medicine, Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility, and Gynecologic Oncology. His research in fetal and maternal medicine continued. He organized and directed an excellent teaching and clinical service during his 14 years as chairman. He also put the department on a solid financial basis.

Retirement did not appeal to him at that time. The University of North Dakota, with a relatively new 4-year medical school, asked Paul to join their faculty. He had always been interested in Native Americans and was able to combine this interest with his faculty duties. He served as a faculty member at the University of North Dakota until 1994.

Those who knew Paul were always impressed by his kindness, gentle manners, humility, and humor. Few knew of his outstanding record in World War II. Just out of his internship, he became a flight surgeon and a member of the 82nd Airborne Division. He was sent to parachute school. As a member of the 82nd he was dropped at Nijmegen on September 17, 1944, when the 82nd was attached to Field Marshal Montgomery's Army. He established a battle aid station for the wounded. His unit was 57 days on the line in an attempt by Montgomery's forces to turn the northern end of the Allies' line. This was not possible because of German resistance. Later Paul was involved with his unit in the Battle of the Bulge. On February 2, 1945, during the Battle for Germany, Paul was wounded in the neck but continued to care for the other wounded and refused evacuation or treatment until the attack was successfully completed. He was awarded the Bronze Medal for Heroic Conduct by General James Gavin, Commander of the 82nd. He was also awarded the Purple Heart. He completed military service as a Major.

After making the decision to become a specialist in obstetrics and gynecology, Paul walked into the office of Dr. N.J. Eastman at Johns Hopkins Hospital wearing his paratrooper's uniform and applied for a residency appointment. As Paul told me, Dr. Eastman was so impressed with his uniform and combat boots that he hired him on the spot. When Dr. Eastman recommended him to me as a future faculty member in Colorado, I recall two statements he made. One was, "You will never regret appointing Paul to your faculty," and that was correct. The second was, "Paul was the only resident I ever had who got along with everyone on the staff."

Paul's years in Colorado were very productive. His work on uterine motility during pregnancy, hyaline membrane disease of the newborn, and fetal physiology have been permanent contributions to our specialty.

He was honored in many ways, including fellowship in the American Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Gynecological Society. He served as vice president of the American Association and the American Gynecological Society, president of the Association of Professors of Obstetrics and Gynecology, president of the American Gynecological Club, and director and vice president of the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Paul married Gertrude Reilly February 14, 1943. They had seven children, -- Paul, Jr., Kathleen, Julia, Mary, Matthew, Theresa, and Elizabeth. He is survived by his children, eight grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren. His marriage ended in 1990.

Paul Donald Bruns was born October 21, 1914, in Sioux City, Iowa, where he was buried. He graduated from Trinity College in Sioux City in 1937 and from the College of Medicine, University of Iowa, in 1941.

He was my friend for 47 years. I always enjoyed his letters, visits, and telephone conversations. Former medical students and residents loved him and carry his spirit, humor, and teachings with them. We all miss him.

E. Stewart Taylor

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