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Honoring The Life and Legacy of Dr. David Sundwall

The Department of Family and Preventive Medicine (DFPM) is saddened to note the death of David N. Sundwall, MD.

Dr. Sundwall was an esteemed colleague and a fierce advocate in the fields of public health and primary care. He was a pioneer of public health policy, making significant contributions to the field for over 30 years.

Dr. Sundwall was an alumnus of the University of Utah School of Medicine, receiving his medical degree in 1969. He was one of the earliest medical students in the United States to train in the newly founded specialty of family medicine and one of the first physicians to train others.

Early in his career, the Utah native spent more than two decades in Washington D.C., serving in several government and private health sectors.

While there, his work was wide-ranging and impactful. Dr. Sundwall worked as the president of the American Clinical Laboratory Association and played a pivotal role in developing health policies at the federal level as director of the health staff of the U.S. Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee. Later, he would act as the administrator for the Health Resources and Services Administration.

In addition to these posts, he served as assistant surgeon general in the Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service and contributed to major task forces and committees determining the shape and impact of national healthcare efforts. Dr. Sundwall also spent time volunteering weekly at the HealthCare for Homeless Project.

David Sundwall

Upon returning to Utah, he served as the executive director of the Utah Department of Health for six years. In addition to his high-profile appointments, Dr. Sundwall continued to volunteer his clinical skills at various clinics in Salt Lake City, caring for medically underserved populations.

In 2011, Dr. Sundwall joined DFPM’s Division of Public Health as a professor, where he taught courses and provided mentorship to students. He held the position for seven years until his retirement in 2018, when he was awarded the title of professor emeritus.

The Utah Medical Association named Dr. Sundwall as Utah’s Doctor of the Year for 2014. He was honored for his dedication to the healthcare field at the Utah State Capitol by Governor Gary Herbert.

DFPM and Division of Public Health hosted the inaugural David N. Sundwall Lectureship on Public Health Policy in October 2017 to celebrate Dr. Sundwall’s contributions to the public health field. The series brings public health policy leaders from across the world to share their experiences in public health.

For all his accolades and accomplishments, Dr. Sundwall may be best remembered for his kindness and modesty. Despite the titles he accrued throughout his career, he always introduced himself simply as “a family doctor from Murray.”

“Dr. Sundwall embodied the mission of the public health field through his care and concern for others,” said John Barrett, MD, interim chair of DFPM, in a letter to the department announcing Dr. Sundwall’s passing.

Dr. Sundwall was a prominent figure in public health policy and advocacy. His passion and invaluable contributions have left a legacy that continues to shape public health and primary care.

To contribute to the David N. Sundwall Lectureship on Public Health Policy in memory of Dr. Sundwall, please visit our donation page: