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Dr. Francis D. ‘Frank’ Milligan, pioneering Johns Hopkins gastroenterologist who practiced for 49 years, dies

Dr. Francis D. “Frank” Milligan joined Johns Hopkins Hospital in 1970 as an assistant professor of medicine in the gastroenterology division and in 1975 was appointed associate professor in the department, a position he held until his retirement in 2011.
Dr. Francis D. “Frank” Milligan joined Johns Hopkins Hospital in 1970 as an assistant professor of medicine in the gastroenterology division and in 1975 was appointed associate professor in the department, a position he held until his retirement in 2011. (HANDOUT)

Dr. Francis D. “Frank” Milligan, a retired Baltimore gastroenterologist who practiced for nearly five decades, died Aug. 20 at his Roland Park Place home of complications from a fall. The former longtime Homeland resident was 87.

“He was just a marvelous person and I so personally valued him as a volunteer as did the rest of our staff,” said Nancy McCall, director of the Alan Mason Chesney Medical Archives of the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions in Mount Washington, and where Dr. Milligan worked as a volunteer.

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“He was as well-versed in history as medicine. I appreciated his astuteness and insight. He brought much to our staff in helping us process our archival collections,” said Ms. McCall, a Roland Park resident. “He was a natural at it.”

Francis Dallos Milligan, the son of William Milligan, a printer, and his wife, Amy Milligan,a homemaker, was born in Cumberland, British Columbia, and raised in Victoria, British Columbia.

After graduating from St. Louis College High School in Victoria, Dr. Milligan, who was known as “Frank," earned a bachelor’s degree in 1953 from the University of Portland in Portland, Oregon, where he was class valedictorian.

He was a 1957 graduate of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. He completed a rotating internship at Toronto General Hospital and a medical internship and residency at the Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Dr. Milligan, who also completed a fellowship in gastroenterology at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, was a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Canada and the American College of Physicians.

During his Hopkins residency, he met and fell in love with the former Elizabeth Ann Duffy, an administrative assistant in the hospital’s neurology department. They married in 1960.

In 1962, the couple moved to Victoria, where Dr. Milligan maintained a private gastroenterology practice while serving as director medical education at St. Joseph’s Hospital. From 1969 to 1970, he was a lecturer in medicine at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario.

“Frank very much loved British Columbia,” Mrs. Milligan said.

Dr. Milligan returned to Baltimore in 1970 when he was named assistant professor of medicine in the gastroenterology division at the Johns Hopkins Hospital, and in 1975 was appointed associate professor in the department, a position he held until his retirement in 2011.

From 1976 until 1985, Dr. Milligan maintained a private gastroenterology practice at 11 E. Chase St. in Mount Vernon, near the Belvedere Hotel. In 1985, he relocated his practice to Green Spring Station in Lutherville, and returned in 2003 to the Johns Hopkins gastroenterology department, where he remained until his retirement.

Dr. Robert Gayler, a retired radiologist and a retired associate professor of radiology at Hopkins, and a colleague who worked closely with Dr. Milligan, wrote in a tribute that he was a “major consultant to surgeons and internists” when it came to gastrointestinal endoscopy.

“He was available, accommodating, and technically superb. He did endoscopy of the esophagus, stomach and proximal duodenum with an oral approach and colonoscopy from below,” he wrote. “We quickly developed a collegial relationship and often were at the same dining table in the old Doctor’s dining room in the main cafeteria in the hospital. He was only a few years older than me and we got along well.”

In the early 1970s, when the Japanese began using fiberoptic endoscopes to study the pancreatic duct and the common bile duct, Dr. Gayler wrote, Dr. Milligan established a nursing team and after approaching Dr. Martin Donner, who was chairman of the radiology department, launched the new procedure.

“In addition to Frank’s clinical knowledge and technical skill, his patient interactions deserve comment,” wrote Dr. Gayler, a resident of Phoenix in Baltimore County.

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“Initiating a new procedure with unclear risks took a lot of groundwork with patients before and after the exams. He worked closely with patients and families to treat pain and anxieties,” Dr. Gayler wrote. “Being at the ‘cutting edge’ is always fraught with concern when the edge has significant chance for real harm. Frank handled these concerns with calm and assurance, although I’m sure there was a lot of lost sleep on many occasions.”

He further observed: “In summary, Frank was a superb gastroenterologist, a pioneer in endoscopic techniques, and a true delight to know and work with.”

Said Mrs. Milligan: “Frank loved his patients.”

Dr. Milligan, who had been a longtime resident of Paddington Road in Homeland, volunteered with Catholic Charities and was a member of the President’s Advisory Committee at the University of Portland.

While a student in Canada, Dr. Milligan worked summers in an archive, an experience that remained with him the rest of his life and motivated him in retirement to volunteer at the Alan Mason Chesney archives.

“He enjoyed working with primary source material,” Ms. McCall said. “Our volunteers are retired medical faculty and nurses, and they help our staff maintain the medical archives that we are responsible for. Frank was a role model for our staff and was kind and generous with his time.”

Ms. McCall described Dr. Milligan as being "so personable and a man of exquisite manners."

“He was a bit quiet and studious and very observant. And as a clinician, he had insight into people, and that’s why we related so well,” she said.

From 2014 until 2017, Dr. Milligan and his wife lived in Mays Chapel before moving to Roland Park Place.

Dr. Milligan read six newspapers a day, his wife said. He also read widely in history, enjoyed travel, and was an inveterate sports fan.

Services were private.

In addition to his wife of 59 years, Dr. Milligan is survived by three sons, Peter Milligan of Ellicott City, Christopher Milligan of Washington and Mark Milligan of Austin, Texas, and four grandchildren.

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