DUANE ANTHONY Sewell's childhood passion for sports gave him a leg up on learning to read.

"His early reading skills could be attributed to a driving desire to be able to read sports statistics and the TV Guide for game schedules," his family said.

Duane went on to progress from sports statistics to mastery of heavy medical texts at places like Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania as he pursued the profession at which he would excel - medicine, with a specialty in head and neck surgery.

Duane Sewell, associate professor of the Department of Otorhinolaryngology at the University of Maryland, who in recent years focused on cancer immunotherapy research, died Nov. 27 after a battle with gastric cancer. He was 44 and lived in Baltimore.

He was former assistant professor in the head and neck surgery department at Penn, and also worked as a staff surgeon at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Philadelphia.

He moved in 2007 to the University of Maryland, where he taught and did research.

Scott E. Strome, head of the head- and neck-surgery department at Maryland and a research colleague, said he "saw Duane as one who works tirelessly to better the human condition through research.

"What made Duane particularly special was not his tangible achievements, but the intangible qualities," Strome said. "He lived his life with integrity, dignity and the quiet strength of a man of deep faith. He was a mentor in the truest sense of the word."

Duane met his future wife, Catherine Pilgrim, while both were in Penn Medical School. They got engaged the night of their graduation and celebrated their acceptance into residency programs at Johns Hopkins Hospital, in Baltimore.

"He was an exceptional husband and father, and I was blessed to have had him in my life for 17 years," his wife said. "He was my soul mate, and we were kindred spirits."

His parents, Dr. and Mrs. Trevor Sewell, described Duane as a "wonderful son, and the combination of intelligence, kindness, humility and the ability to relate to others with ease and grace made him a greatly loved human being."

His sister, Andrea, had a special reason to appreciate her brother. When she ran the Serendipity Inspirational Gifts and Coffee Shop, in Glenside, Duane met with community people there and led a discussion on medical issues.

Duane was born in Milwaukee. He moved with his family to Philadelphia at age 5 when his father joined the faculty of Temple University. Duane graduated from Abington High School, and went on to earn a bachelor's degree cum laude in biology from Harvard. He went from there to Penn, where he received his medical degree.

After completing his residency at Johns Hopkins, Duane returned to Penn as a research fellow in the Department of Immunology and as a fellow in head and neck surgery.

"In his clinical practice, he demonstrated love for people regardless of social status," his family said.

Duane was frequently honored for his work and received numerous research grants.

Besides his wife, parents and sister, he is survived by two sons, Sean Trevor and Joshua Edward.

Services: Memorial service 11 a.m. tomorrow at Cedar Park Presbyterian Church, Limekiln Pike and Upsal Street.

Donations may be made to the University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center, 22 S. Green St., Baltimore MD 21201-1595.