George McLean’s Estate Gift Pays His Appreciation Forward  

George McLean, MD

George McLean, MD’73, spent his happiest years as a medical student and resident.  

It was in his third year at Duke University School of Medicine that he found his calling in endocrinology, doing research on growth hormones with Robert Fellows, MD, PhD. After graduating, he went on to complete his residency and a fellowship at Vanderbilt University working with Grant Liddle, MD, and David Rabin, MD, both giants in the early development of endocrinology. He treasured his research experiences at both Duke and Vanderbilt and found the work stimulating and critical to his professional development. Following his fellowship, McLean accepted a faculty position at the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga, where he practiced and taught before entering private practice for the remainder of his career.  

McLean was an excellent physician and such a skilled diagnostician that other doctors frequently asked him to weigh in on difficult cases — even those in areas outside endocrinology. He brought the same curiosity that marked him in the lab and on the wards as a trainee to his practice; he loved diagnostic challenges and read broadly in all areas of internal medicine throughout his career.  

McLean credited his education at Duke for honing his skill as a diagnostician. During rounds, each student was expected to prepare a comprehensive list of alternate diagnoses when presenting a patient to the residents and attending physicians. Despite outward appearances, e.g., his cluttered, chaotic lab space and stained white coat, he was an exceptional student and was awarded one of the first Duke University Medical Faculty Wives scholarships.  

McLean had a number of passions in addition to medicine. These included auto racing, particularly Formula One and Mini Cooper racing; water skiing; hiking (including a memorable climb up Mt. Katahdin in Maine); and music, especially jazz and blues. In an undergraduate music appreciation course, he once wrote a 49-page analysis of Beethoven’s 5th symphony. It was his love of music that sustained him as his health declined. 

McLean died on March 30, 2022. He is survived by his son Russell McLean and his close friend and ex-wife Susan McLean, MD’75, also a Duke University School of Medicine graduate. 

In appreciation of the gifts of knowledge and training he received at Duke, the George W. McLean estate has funded an endowment to support endocrinology research by young investigators.  

“One of the aspects of George’s career in medicine that really sparked his intellectual growth was the research he did in endocrinology as a third-year medical student,” said David D’Alessio, MD, chief of the Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism in the Department of Medicine. “In this spirit, we will use funds from this gracious endowment to help young investigators in our division, from fellows to junior faculty, establish and grow their research projects. Oftentimes discrete, targeted support at a critical time in career development can provide the boost young investigators need to be successful in their research endeavors. We see this gift as adding a unique benefit to the division that will help support the careers of up-and-coming physicians and scientists in endocrinology.” 

by Wendy Graber 
March 6, 2023