Community grieves loss of Kenneth Najarian

June-4-F-Najarian_Kenneth-CBy Matt Keller

In a community already reeling from the death of bicycling enthusiast Richard Tom on April 26th of this year, the death of respected UVM Medical Center Radiologist Kenneth Najarian, of Charlotte, struck another tragic blow last week. The mood was somber in town Thursday afternoon as people went about their daily routines in the wake of another bicycle death on local roads.

From colleagues, passersby, and local residents like Charlotte Selectboard Chair Lane Morrison, the tone was one of sorrow at the senseless death and respect for Dr. Najarian as a person and a professional.

At approximately 5:50pm Najarian was traveling south on Greenbush Road in Ferrisburgh on his bicycle when he was struck and killed by a vehicle being driven by Holly Gonyeau of Williston. Gonyeau was tested at the scene and her preliminary breath test indicated a blood alcohol content of .123%.

The legal limit is 0.08 and Gonyeau was processed for driving under the influence and released with a promise to appear in court on June 29th in Addison County Criminal Court. An investigation into further charges is underway, with initial reports indicating that Gonyeau would be charged with DUI resulting in death. According to the State Police, those reports are premature, but the case remains open.

This case is sure to accelerate the debate about safe cycling in Northwest Vermont. According to Sue Minter, the Vermont Transportation Secretary, there was only a single instance of a bicyclist dying due to a collision with an automobile between 2005-2014 in the entire state of Vermont. There have been three in the past 90 days in Northwestern Vermont.

Both Minter and Charlotte Selectboard Chair Lane Morrison stressed that it is vitally important for both drivers and riders to focus on safety during the riding season this summer and fall. Minter stressed that the best way to remember the fallen riders was by focusing on safety.

Najarian, a longtime Charlotte resident, was survived by his wife Krissi and his children Jared and Shannon. He also had a long-term relationship with the University of Vermont Medical School, having gotten his medical degree there, and most recently serving as a Professor of Radiology.

After growing up in Rhode Island, Najarian got his degree from UVM Medical School in 1980, served a diagnostic radiology residency there until 1984, and returned in 1985 to become an assistant professor and attending radiologist after leaving Vermont to serve two fellowships, one in interventional radiology and the other in ultrasound and computed tomography.

Najarian was one the nation’s foremost experts on radiology, specializing in Vascular Interventional Radiology, according to his colleague at the University of Vermont Medical Center, Kristen DeStigter, MD, who is also a Professor of Radiology and the interim chair of the radiology department.

“He was a role model for the best practice of medicine and the kind of person you would want to be your doctor” DeStigter said in an email on Thursday. A former resident-in-training once wrote of him that “he treats patients like family and residents like colleagues”.

Najarian led a full life, making time for family, bicycling, drumming in a band, and kite boarding in addition to the demanding hours required of him as a respected doctor and nationally recognized radiologist.

In addition to helping to bring the UVM Medical Center department of radiology into the 21st Century, Najarian also traveled widely due to his expertise in radiology and imaging. He served on the FDA’s Oncologic Drugs Advisory Committee and was also a consultant to the Circulatory Systems Devices Advisory Panel, also at the FDA, among other committee responsibilities.

He also published articles in the Journal of Vascular and Interventional Radiology, among many other publications.