Dr. Howard Hessan, a Baltimore otolaryngologist who practiced for nearly 40 years and was an inveterate sports enthusiast, died from complications of Parkinson’s disease June 8 at Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center in Florida. The former Clarksville and Columbia resident was 66.
“He was a wonderful surgeon, a caring doc whose patients were his priority over everything except his family,” said Dr. Thomas M. Silber, who knew Dr. Hessan for 37 years. Dr. Silber is an allergist and shared an office with Dr. Hessan.
Dr. George Thomas Grace, a plastic surgeon, was a colleague and longtime friend.
“We operated a lot together and became good friends. He was a very bright guy who loved being a physician,” Dr. Grace said. “In her eulogy, his sister said Howard wanted to be a physician from the age of two.”
Howard Hessan, son of Louis Hessan, an appliance repair shop owner, and Miriam Hessan, a school administrator, was born and raised in Norristown, Pennsylvania, where he graduated from Norristown High School.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in 1979 from Johns Hopkins University and obtained his medical degree in 1983 from Pennsylvania State College of Medicine in Hershey, Pennsylvania, where he also completed a residency in otolaryngology.
“He was very smart and intelligent and had gone through top-tier training programs,” Dr. Silber said. “He had a very dry but quick wit and was always a pleasure to be around.”
Dr. Hessan was a staff otolaryngologist at Ascension St. Agnes Hospital and what is now Johns Hopkins Howard County Medical Center in Columbia, for nearly 40 years.
“He’d be on call or in the emergency room and he didn’t care about a patient’s ability to pay or if they had insurance or not — all he cared about was that they needed to be taken care of,” Dr. Grace said.
At St. Agnes, he was a member of the executive and finance committees, and at Johns Hopkins Howard County Medical Center, he was a member of the operating room committee.
“He always took a leading role in departments and with committees,” Dr. Silber said.
Dr. Grace said: “Howard was involved in hospital affairs and with the local ENT and hearing societies where he started a program for people who couldn’t afford hearing aids.”
He added: “He was a physician who wanted to make a difference for his patients and he saved his energy for them. His death is a real loss for the community.”
In 2014, Dr. Hessan received the Seton Award for 25 years of service to St. Agnes. He also maintained a private practice for 33 years on Wilkens Avenue in Baltimore and Columbia.
“He was such a wonderful man who gave his patients all the time and care they needed,” said Janice M. Fisher, who first met Dr. Hessan when they both worked for the Ear, Nose and Throat Specialty Group in Glen Burnie. When he established a solo practice, Ms. Fisher followed him and managed his offices for three decades.
“I was a newbie and he taught me everything I knew about otolaryngology,” Ms. Fisher said. “He was so well-respected by so many people and he had thousands of patients. We numbered the cases and I know we got up to 10,000.”
His professional memberships included the American Academy of Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery and the Maryland Society of Otolaryngology, of which he had been president. He was also a board member of the Hearing and Speech Agency.
Dr. Hessan retired in 2021.
“When he retired, there was an outpouring of gratitude from the families he had helped,” Dr. Silber said. “He was a very, very dedicated physician.”
His philanthropic interests included the Michael J. Fox Foundation For Parkinson’s Research that was established by the Hollywood actor who also suffers from Parkinson’s.
Dr. Hessan married Jeri Fox, who he had known since they were both 4th grade students in Norristown. In 1979, she became his bookkeeper for his private practice.
The couple enjoyed a regular Tuesday evening date night at Ananda, an Indian restaurant in Fulton, where they sat at the bar watching sporting events on TV while spending time with other regulars and staff.
Dr. Hessan was a devoted Nittany Lions football fan, as well as a Ravens and Washington Wizards fan.
“We had Ravens seasons tickets from the day the team came to town,” Dr. Silber said.
Family members said after every Penn State or Ravens touchdown, he’d call his son or an uncle to talk about the “game that was now a given.”
He was an avid golfer and played tennis for 20 years.
“Howard had the wittiest, driest, most clever sense of humor of anyone I know”, wrote David Nevins, a longtime friend and Baltimore marketing executive, in an email.
Mr. Nevins wrote that while not a patient of Dr. Hessan’s, he knew St. Agnes viewed him as one of their “shining stars.”
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“All of us who were his friends often sought his advice and counsel,” Mr. Nevins wrote. “To the extent that one can balance family life and a thriving career, he seemed to do so seamlessly. He had a one-of-a-kind positive attitude toward life, uniquely and surprisingly even after his Parkinson’s diagnosis.”
An oenophile, he especially enjoyed the wines of California’s Napa Valley and visiting there. He also had acquired the skills of a master pizza maker from his days working at a Pizza Hut while putting himself through his residency.
His son, Josh Hessan, of San Francisco, said his father put his “surgical prowess to work” when carving the Thanksgiving turkey that he then reassembled on a serving platter.
A resident of Columbia and Clarksville until moving to Palm Beach Gardens in 2022, Dr. Hessan had been a member of Beth Shalom Congregation in Columbia.
Services were held Wednesday at the Joseph Levine & Sons Memorial Chapel in Trevose, Pennsylvania.
In addition to his wife and son, he is survived by his daughter Lauren Horowitz of Penn Valley, Pennsylvania; a sister, Diane Hessan of Boston; and two granddaughters.