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Robert S. Swenson M.D.


1933 - 2016
Robert S. Swenson M.D. Obituary
Robert S. Swenson, M.D.
April 19, 1933 - February 12, 2016
Resident of Stanford, CA
Robert Sanfred Swenson, M.D., passed away on February 12, 2016 at the age of 82. The cause of death was complications of Parkinson's Disease. The son of Silas and Amy Swenson, Bob was born on April 19, 1933 in Brooten, Minnesota. Bob's grandmother, descended from 19th century Scandinavian frontier immigrants, was born in a covered wagon; his great grandfather was scalped in an Indian uprising; and his dad's cousin (Carl Ben Eielson) was an Alaskan aviator, bush pilot and explorer, receiving the Harmon Trophy in 1929 from President Herbert Hoover.
While attending high school, Bob was church organist and won State awards for his cornet playing. He earned his B.A. from the University of Minnesota in 1955 and his M.D. from its Medical School in 1958. His medical internship was at Minneapolis General Hospital, where he met Carol Conley who was working there as a medical technologist. They were married in 1959 and celebrated their 56th anniversary last year.
After his internship, Bob served in the U.S. Navy for two years, including six months of sea duty as physician on the frigate USS Wilkinson in west Pacific, earning a medal for patrolling the Korean Straits. After his discharge, he did post-graduate training in internal medicine and nephrology at the University of California (San Francisco), Fort Miley VA Hospital, and Stanford Medical School, ending up with a faculty appointment at Stanford Medical School. In that capacity, he was the nephrologist for the first kidney transplant program on the West Coast. He founded the dialysis unit at the Palo Alto VA Hospital, and directed the dialysis programs at both Stanford teaching hospitals.
In 1989 he received the Arthur Bloomfield Award for Excellence in the Teaching of Clinical Medicine. That year he was appointed Chief of Staff at the Livermore VA Hospital, another teaching unit of Stanford. Bob was active in the Northern California Kidney Foundation, serving several years as President.
Bob thrived in retirement: he attended weekly medical conferences, taught an annual class in the Medical School, acquired some French cooking skills, and plunged into genealogy research, discovering he had married into a family with direct connections to various kings of England including King Henry II. While linkage to the British Royal Family did not impress his proudly pro-Irish father-in-law, his wife and daughters were delighted, particularly when Bob unearthed that their ancestry also included Charlemagne and a Scottish saint.
Bob was a gregarious person, a caring person, a listener. He went out of his way to help family, friends, and patients. As a patient himself in his late years he never complained but instead showed concern for those around him and the effect on them of his long and debilitating illness.
Bob Swenson is survived by his wife Carol, daughters Cynthia Swenson and Dana Raphaelson, sons-in-law Tom d'Arezzo and Matthew Raphaelson, and grandchildren Britt and Olivia d'Arezzo and James and Alix Raphaelson.
Burial will be private and a memorial will be planned. Deductible donations may be made in Bob's name to support the NINDS Morris K. Udall Centers for Excellence for Parkinson's Disease Research (NINDS, 31 Center Drive, Rm 8A34, NIH, Bethesda, MD 20892).


View the online memorial for Robert S. Swenson, M.D.
Published in San Jose Mercury News/San Mateo County Times on Feb. 19, 2016
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