Ira Hanan, MD, Professor of Medicine at the University of Chicago Medicine Digestive Diseases Center, will retire in June 2022, after more than 35 years of service. GIRF will honor his outstanding contributions to the field of gastroenterology at its annual ball on June 4th.

Originally from New York City, Dr. Hanan went to medical school at the State University of New York, in Brooklyn, and came to the University of Chicago in 1980 for his residency and gastroenterology fellowship. At UChicago Medicine, he established his long career in the GI Section headed by Joseph B. Kirsner, MD, one of Dr. Hanan’s mentors.

After finishing his fellowship in 1985, Dr. Kirsner invited Dr. Hanan to join the faculty as a clinical instructor, where he rose through the ranks to become Professor of Medicine in 2013. Even during his few years in private practice, Dr. Hanan always felt called to academic medicine.

“I think it’s the environment. You are at the cutting edge of medicine, and the resources found at the University aren’t always available in the world of non-academics,” explained Dr. Hanan. “And, as Dr. Kirsner always said, ‘Surround yourself with smart people.’ We have wonderful support services, and work so closely with our colleagues in surgery, in pathology, in pharmacy, in radiology… I always remembered what he said about surrounding yourself with smart colleagues. That’s what I tried to do.”

Dr. Hanan’s clinical expertise has helped thousands of patients with a variety of GI concerns and caring for patients was always the centerpiece of his work. “The most gratifying thing is seeing people get better,” he explains. “When they come to you, they’re sick. You give them a treatment plan, you listen to them, and they are getting well again. Now, when patients learn I’m retiring and leaving, I hear them say, ‘You’ve made such a change in my life.’ And that is what it’s all about.”

As a mentor, Dr. Hanan always made sure to help his early career colleagues maintain balance in their lives while contributing to their profession.

“One of our former fellows a number of years ago told me that I was his life mentor because I would tell him, ‘Make sure you have a good life outside of coming to work every day. Make sure that you’re doing fun things.’ I used to always jokingly say to the fellows, ‘Never come back from one vacation without having another one planned, so you have something to look forward to.’ When I round with fellows I always want to know, ‘What are your plans for the weekend?’ I think that’s really important. You have to avoid burnout.” says Dr. Hanan.

In retirement, Dr. Hanan plans to spend more time with his wife, Linda, his children, Emily and Brad and their spouses, and his five grandchildren.

I have a lot of things planned,” says Dr. Hanan. “The first is to not wake up to an alarm clock… I’m going to learn to sleep past 5:30 AM. I’m going do a lot of fishing and camping, and I want to start to play more music again…old-time fiddle and guitar. If you think standing up and having to talk to a crowd of hundreds of people, giving a medical lecture is hard, try standing in front of people at a bar when you’re trying to play music!” laughs Dr. Hanan.

In addition to this honor from the GI Research Foundation, Dr. Hanan will be the recipient of the 2022 Gold Key Award which recognizes outstanding and loyal service to the Division of the Biological Sciences and to the University of Chicago. The University of Chicago Medicine Digestive Diseases Center will greatly miss Dr. Hanan’s expertise and sense of purpose and congratulates him on his well-earned retirement.

*Corrections – an earlier version of this article included an incorrect date for the Ball of July 4th. The Ball date has been updated in this post.

*Corrections – an earlier version of this article erroneously credited the creation of the GI Section to Dr. Kirsner.  This article has been updated to more accurately reflect the relationship of Dr. Kirsner to the Section.