It was with great sadness that we at the Mendocino Coast District Hospital learned of the recent passing of Dr. Donald P. Hahn. Revered by his patients, admired by the Hospital Staff, and respected by his colleagues, Dr. Hahn’s service to our hospital and the community spanned over forty years.
Arriving in Mendocino in 1965, he opened his practice on Main Street and attended patients in the Redwood Coast Hospital in Ft. Bragg (now the Grey Whale Inn). When the new and modern Mendocino Coast District Hospital was opened in 1971 after years of work by forward-looking community leaders, Dr. Hahn accepted the leadership role he was suited for and became the first Medical Chief of Staff at MCDH. He then guided the Hospital and Medical Staff into the new era of medical care that was evolving at that time.
Dr. Hahn was born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1929, the second son of an educator, who owned and operated a private K through 12 boy’s school from which he graduated in 1947. He attended Princeton University, where he excelled not only in academics but also in sports and was inducted into the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 1982. He received his medical degree from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in 1955, where his professors and mentors wrote the textbooks that a subsequent generation of medical students studied.
His residency in Internal Medicine consisted of two years at the illustrious Bellview Hospital in New York City, then another year at the Stanford University program which was then using the hospital facilities in what later became the California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco. Between the two programs, he spent seven years in the U.S. Air Force, being posted in Korea and Germany. During this time, he was able to travel Asia and Europe extensively.
In addition to his active medical practice, he was a community leader, becoming the first chairman of the Mendocino Historical Review Board. There, he kept the potentially volatile meetings largely civil and functioning, using his firm but amiable leadership skills, fairness, and his signature good humor. He acted in several plays at the Mendocino Art Center in the 1980s. He and his wife Pamela raised two wonderful children, who are now living and doing good work in our community. By example and through intelligence and wit, he mentored a new generation of university-trained doctors that began to settle in the area in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Dr. Hahn was the embodiment of the ideal medical doctor. He had a rare combination of intelligence, empathy, compassion, sensitivity, and practicality. This was pleasantly spiced with plenty of wit and humor. He believed that his patients’ best interests were not his “first priority”, they were his ONLY priority. He loved to see patients in their homes; he felt that you could not really know and understand your patients unless you saw them in their own environment.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Dr. Hahn teamed up with another great humanitarian that our community was blessed with, Rosie Turrigiano RN, and developed the Home Health and Hospice service that has been an extremely important and valuable service MCDH provides to our community. Through his extensive experience, Dr. Hahn recognized that people were dying by themselves in the hospital, not because they wanted to, but because they and their families did not have the support or resources to stay more comfortably at home. MCDH Home Health and Hospice has evolved into a competent, selfless, industrious group of nurses, volunteers, and other health workers, who carry on Dr. Hahn and Rosie Turrigiano’s tradition of service.
As Parkinson’s disease began to eat away at his body, Dr. Hahn retired from his medical practice in 1996. He continued to be the medical director of Home Health and Hospice as well as the medical director of Sherwood Oaks Convalescent Hospital and a board member of the Cancer Resource Center of Mendocino for almost another ten years.
We wish to extend our sympathy to Dr. Hahn’s family, friends, and others whose lives he touched and who will miss him dearly.