Dr. Thomas S. Monahan III, an academic vascular surgeon at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and a vascular surgeon at the University of Maryland Medical Center who worked tirelessly to bring surgical care to the poor, incarcerated, veterans, uninsured and the mostly forgotten, died Sept. 12 from heart failure at his Baltimore home. He was 44.
“Tom came to Baltimore and really carved out a mission to help the underprivileged, of which there is no shortage of in this city,” said Dr. Rajabrata Sarkar, chief of vascular surgery at the University of Maryland Medical Center and professor of surgery at the University of Maryland School Medicine, where he is head of its Division of Vascular Surgery.
“He brought clinical services to the most vulnerable of our population, including the incarcerated who historically have trouble getting medical care. He worked with veterans at the Veterans Administration hospital,” Dr. Sarkar said. “Tom was a low-profile person who was modest and unassuming.”
Thomas Stacey Monahan III, the son of T. Stacey Monahan, a wholesale paper company executive, and his wife, Nancy Salo Monahan, an elementary school art teacher, was born in Weymouth, Massachusetts, and raised in Scituate, Massachusetts.
He was a 1993 graduate of Boston College High School and earned a bachelor’s degree in 1997 from the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, where he was an honors graduate and lettered in eight varsity sports.
While a student at the University of Massachusetts in Worcester, from which he earned his medical degree in 2001, Dr. Monhan began research in cardiovascular physiology.
After earning his medical degree, he trained in general surgery at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and was a research fellow in surgery in the Harvard Vascular Training Program at Harvard Medical School.
When Dr. Monahan completed his general surgery residency, he entered the University of California, San Francisco for a vascular surgery fellowship. He was board-certified in both surgery and vascular surgery.
In 2010, Dr. Monahan joined the faculty of the University of Maryland School of Medicine and practiced vascular surgery at the University of Maryland Medical Center, Baltimore Veterans Affairs Medical Center and the Bon Secours Health System.
His laboratory work was focused on “applying innovative molecular therapy to improve the patency and outcome of vascular stents,” according to a biographical profile.
His research was funded through multiple grants, including the Veterans Administration Research Career Development Award, the Wylie Scholar Award from Vascular Cures and an RO1 grant from the National Institutes of Health.
“His research was nationally very successful and was underwritten in part by a prestigious RO1 grant,” Dr. Sarkar said.
The result of Dr. Monahan’s research was presented across the country at national scientific meetings and was published in numerous peer-reviewed journals. In 2017, he was named the Harvard Longwood Visiting Professor in Vascular Surgery Research.
Dr. Monahan managed the vascular services clinic for the incarcerated, where he established a dialysis access surgery program.
“He expanded it and ran with it, and I was very proud for him doing it,” said Dr. Sarkar, who had formerly headed the clinic.
"Tom was a very kind and warm person. The veterans loved him, and he he loved them,” he said. “He could identify with people’s struggles, a patient’s or a co-worker’s struggles.”
“He had a personal commitment to providing much needed surgical care for the most vulnerable in our society: the poor, uninsured, veterans and persons with no advocates,” according to the biographical profile. “His patients and colleagues remember him as a tireless advocate for the chronically ill and disadvantaged, as well as a dedicated teacher and scientist.”
After Dr. Monahan died, Dr. Sarkar gathered his medical colleagues and asked for their thoughts on their friend and co-worker.
“A nurse practitioner said that when she started in vascular services she had no idea what she was doing, ‘I faked it,’ she said," recalled Dr. Sarkar.
“So, every Friday, Tom would meet with her and they would talk over hypothetical patients, and he told her they would keep on doing it until she felt they didn’t have to do it anymore,” he said. “He told her what she needed was only a little guidance.”
Dr. Monhan had not informed Dr. Sarkar of his tutoring. “He took the nurse practitioners under his wing, and I never knew that until he died,” he said.
Dr. Monahan never shied away from volunteering when a job needed to be done.
“He was the most helpful guy you’d ever want to meet. When a task came up or a patient had a need, Tom’s hand was the first one up in the air. He had an eagerness and a desire to help the team. It was huge," Dr. Sartkar said. “Sometimes I’d have to remind him and say, ‘Tom how can you do that? You have three scheduled surgeries today,’ and then he’d say, ‘Oh, that’s right.’ ”
Dr. Monhan, a devout Roman Catholic, was a communicant of St. Ignatius Roman Catholic Church on North Calvert Street.
“He fulfilled his stated mission of helping the underprivileged,the vulnerable and the ignored, and he did it with a clear sense of purpose,” Dr. Sarkar said.
He had not retired at his death.
Dr, Monahan enjoyed skiing, golfing, running and playing the piano and keyboard.
“He didn’t have a lot of free time because of his medical career and he spent a lot of time with his children,” said his brother, Robert D. Monahan of Scituate.
A Memorial Mass was offered Friday at St. Mary of the Nativity Roman Catholic Church in Scituate Harbor, Massachusetts.
In addition to his brother, Dr. Monahan is survived by his son, Michael Monahan; a daughter, Emily Monahan, both of Baltimore; his parents, of Marshfield, Massachusetts; a sister, Elizabeth R. Caruso of Weston, Massachusetts; and several nieces and nephews. His marriage to Linda Wong ended in divorce..