A well-lived life inspires a legacy

Dr. Howard Graney was a gentle giant in osteopathic medicine and education.

Howard Graney, D.O.’33, was a giant in osteopathic medicine: A widely respected surgeon and hospital leader, he also was a professor of surgery and a Fellow, president and honored member of the American College of Osteopathic Surgeons (ACOS). But those who knew and learned from him remember him most for his gentle demeanor and concern for his patients. He even encouraged them to call him at home if they had questions about their surgery or follow-up care.

“Osteopathy was consistent with his nature,” says Carol Graney DeChant, one of Dr. Graney’s three daughters. “He emphasized the importance of really listening to patients and the laying on of the physician’s hands.”

Dr. Graney taught students both on campus and at Des Moines General Hospital, where he was chief of surgery for more than three decades. After he died in 2005, the University renamed a surgery fund the Howard A. Graney Surgery Fund that now provides annual cash awards for fourth-year medical students and teaching assistants who excel in surgery. Donors, including DeChant and her sisters Kathleen Graney Finkenauer and Harriett Graney Harrow, have supported the fund financially.

“We like to think the Graney Award recipients have some of Dad’s qualities,” DeChant says. “We’d like others to honor his memory by making gifts to the fund, so that it can grow further.”

Graney Award recipients include Craig Follette, D.O.’17, a surgical resident at Kansas University Medical Center. “I plan to become a surgical oncologist in order to help those in need, just like the many people Dr. Graney helped throughout his long career,” he wrote in a letter to DeChant. “I do not believe such lofty goals could be achieved without your support. Becoming and being a surgeon is a long and rigorous journey, but I know it is all worth it because of generous contributions from people like you… Words cannot describe what your family has done for me, and I am proud to be a part that great legacy.”

The Graney sisters: Kathleen, Carol and Harriett

That legacy includes Dr. Graney’s purchase of coloring books for child patients at Des Moines General, at a time when visiting hours were very limited. It includes his long hours on the phone with certain patients who called frequently not because they were unwell, but because he was a good listener. It includes how he and his colleagues successfully evacuated all Des Moines General patients when a fire destroyed most of the building in the middle of a subzero night in January 1965.

Dr. Graney pursued osteopathic medicine after deciding he didn’t want to spend his life as a tailor and dry cleaner. His daughters have memories of him sewing on buttons and doing other tailoring tasks, including pressing daughter Kathleen’s wedding gown. But while his career choice was a pragmatic one, providing compassionate care was his guiding principle.

“He was a special man,” DeChant says. “He was a good teacher to us as his children and to students he trained as surgeons. And he truly cared about his patients.”

To learn more about Dr. Howard Graney, the Graney Fund and ways you can support it, visit the DMU website or call the DMU Development and Alumni Relations Office at 515-271-1387.

Scroll to Top