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Dr. Edward Eaton Mason


Posted By: Sarah Fletcher (email)
Date: 1/8/2021 at 13:05:07

Dr. Edward Eaton Mason has been called the “Father of Obesity Surgery”. He died on December 29, 2020 at Walden's Place in Iowa City at the age of 100. He was widely regarded as the preeminent surgeon in the development and promotion of gastric restrictive surgery for the morbidly obese patient. He introduced the first gastric bypass in 1966 and invented the first vertical banded gastroplasty (commonly called stomach stapling) in 1980. For years he searched for ways to perfect the surgical treatment of obesity to keep the operation as low-risk and simple as possible to avoid complications and side effects while controlling body weight. He believed that obesity was an epidemic disease resulting in heart ailments, high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, cancer, high cholesterol, and strokes. In 1976 he organized a meeting of 50 obesity surgeons that was eventually incorporated as the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery and today has more than 500 members. He directed the International Bariatric Surgery Registry that collected and analyzed data from more than 20,000 patients, to help learn more about specific obesity operations. He authored more than 200 papers and book chapters. He has published 5 books, the first in 1964 titled “Computer Applications in Medicine.” His fifth book “A Fat Chance” an autobiography was published on his 100th birthday.

He was an only child born in the backseat of a taxi cab in Boise, Idaho on Oct. 16, 1920 the year women got the right to vote. His father Edward Files Mason became a professor of photojournalism at the University of Iowa in 1929 during the depression. His mother Dora Eaton Mason was a teacher and gifted sculptress who created the original Nile Kinnick bust and lived to be almost 103 years of age. He graduated from City High in 1939, earned his M.D. At U. of Iowa in 1945 and served in the navy during WWII. After the war he studied with Dr. Owen Wangensteen at the U. of Minnesota studying the surgical treatment of the duodenal ulcer. He received his Ph.D in surgery from the U. of Minnesota in 1953, joined the surgery department at the U. of Iowa in 1953, and became emeritus professor in 1991. In 1965 he did a series of experiments with Dr. Chikashi Ito from Sapporo, Japan to see if it would be safe to treat peptic ulcer disease with gastric bypass. It soon became apparent that ulcer disease was not helped by gastric bypass, but the obese patients lost weight and gastric bypass surgery for obesity was born.

Now the gastric bypass, the vertical banded gastroplasty, and modifications of Mason's surgeries are in use all over the world for severely obese patients, and metabolic obesity surgery is used for the treatment of type 2 diabetes. Dr. Mason was a hard worker who would go out to see his patients in the middle of the night until his early 70's and listen quietly to their complaints. His humble attitude was opposite that of most surgeons. He trained thousands of medical students and surgeons at the U. of Iowa hospital.

He married the love of his life Dordana Fairman Mason in 1944 who was a dietitian at the U. of Iowa. She cared for patients with anorexia, while he treated the obese. They met while canoeing on the Iowa River at the U. of Iowa during medical school and were married for 71 years until Dordana passed away in 2015. His hobbies were swimming, photography, camping in the North Woods of Minnesota, writing, and babysitting his family. He swam a half-mile every day at noon at the Field House or Mercer pool until he was 96 years old, and left his home to move to Walden's Place.

Survivors include 3 sons: Daniel Mason and wife Marilyn Stoffel of Rainy River, Ontario, Canada; Richard Mason and wife Diane Kepros of Marion, Iowa; Charles Mason of Iowa City and Faye Mason of Swisher; and one daughter Dr. RoseMary Mason and husband Dr. David Marc Tan Creti of Denison, Iowa. Nine grandchildren: Russell, Leonard, Matthew, Luke, John, Erica, Sandra, Cody and Jozlyn.

Thirteen great grandchildren: Leonah, Jaylyn, Orion, Lourdes, Britton, Hawke, Wylde, Tyler, Bailey, Tanner, Jonah, Landon, and Nathan. One great, great grandchild due to be born in 2021.

Due to COVID-19, a memorial service will be held at a later date. Memorial gifts should be given to the First Presbyterian Church in Iowa City or the Iowa City Public Library Foundation.

Lensing Funeral & Cremation Service

Johnson Obituaries maintained by Cindy Booth Maher.
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