Former Medical School interim dean Chou dies

Liz Kohman

Shelley N. Chou, professor emeritus and former interim dean of the Medical School, died July 21 of cancer in his home in Rio Verde, Ariz. He was 77.

Chou, a former neurosurgeon, served as interim dean from 1993 to 1995. He was also a member of all five national neurosurgical societies and in 1996 earned the Cushing Medal, the American Association of Neurological Surgeons’ highest honor.

“He was an excellent, very caring physician,” said P. Thienprasit, who completed his residency under Chou from 1970 through 1975.

“He was one of the very best teachers the University has had,” Thienprasit added. Chou, known for his patience as a teacher, often kept in touch with residents after they started practicing.

Chou was born in 1924 in China, where he studied at St. John’s University in Shanghai.

He came to the United States in 1948 and finished his medical schooling at the University of Utah Medical School in 1949.

Chou began his residency program at the University in 1950. After his residency, Chou left Minnesota for a clinical faculty appointment at the University of Utah and then worked at the National Institutes of Health.

He returned to the University in 1960 as a faculty member in the neurosurgery department. He became a professor in 1968 and chaired the department from 1974 through 1989.

Current neurosurgery department chairman Robert Maxwell said Chou’s meticulous attention to detail, integrity and ethical values rubbed off on residents.

Chou was well known for his contributions to basic neurosurgical research. He also served on a presidential commission for ethics in medicine and a Food and Drug Administration advisory panel for nervous-system devices.

Chou retired from the University in 1992. But he left retirement at the request of then-University President Nils Hasselmo in 1993 to serve as the interim dean and deputy vice president for medical affairs until 1995.

Chou became interim dean while the federal government investigated the Medical School for possible conflicts of interest and financial mismanagement. He led the school through changes in management.

“He served the University in its time of need and made it a better place to be,” said Frank Cerra, senior vice president for the Academic Health Center, in a written statement.

Medical School Dean Al Michael said he will remember Chou most for his warmth, understanding and ability to look for the best in people.

He is survived by his wife Jolene; three children, Shelley Tien-mo, Dana Tien-wen, and Kerry Tien-shui; and seven grandchildren.

There will be a memorial service 4 p.m. Aug. 20 at the Gateway Alumni Center.