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Mary Free Bed mourns passing of Dr. Swanson

Dr Alfred Swanson Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital

Dr. Alfred Swanson is pictured in the cowboy costume he wore to the annual Christmas party he hosted for pediatric patients.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Dr. Alfred Swanson, internationally known for his pioneering work in hand surgery and the development finger joint replacements, died Wednesday, April 27. He was 93.

Swanson had a long association with Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital, where he was a member of the medical staff, served three terms totaling eight years as chief of staff and treated patients for more than 50 years.

“Al Swanson will be remembered for his pioneering work in orthopedic surgery, which began when he created procedures to help children stricken with polio realize their maximum function and continued with innovative procedures to restore function to patients with hand deformities from rheumatoid arthritis,” said Dr. Michael Jakubowski, Mary Free Bed’s Chief Medical Officer.

Dr. John Butzer, director of the hospital’s John F. Butzer Center for Research and Innovation, and emeritus CMO, worked with Swanson for 40 years. He called him “a tireless and innovative advocate for better patient care.”

“Dr. Al Swanson’s passing is a great loss for Mary Free Bed, his patients and the medical community,” Butzer said. “His orthopedic patient care and research were recognized internationally; he was a recognized teacher, and as director of the orthopedic residency program, he taught many current orthopedic surgeons practicing in Grand Rapids and throughout the country.”

Swanson hosted an annual Christmas party for young patients, dressing like a cowboy to entertain the children. “Dr. Swanson’s Christmas Party” continues today; in 2015, more than 300 current and former patients and their families enjoyed gathering for the festivities and gifts.

For obituary information, visit: http://obits.mlive.com/obituaries/grandrapids/obituary.aspx?pid=179766921.

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