Medical 05

Donald Charles Zavala, MD, FCCP

November 1, 1923 ~ September 21, 2022 (age 98)


Donald Charles Zavala, MD, FCCP, 98, of Murrells Inlet, SC, passed away on Wednesday, September 21, 2022 at Inlet Coastal Resort in Murrells Inlet. He was born November 1, 1923 in El Centro, CA, son of the late Michael Joseph Zavala and Effie Delores McElyea Zavala.

In addition to his parents he is preceded in death by his beloved wife, Judy Zavala; a daughter, Catherine Zavala Norbie; and second wife, Julie Zavala.

Survivors include one daughter, Rebecca Hale and her husband, Sam of Surfside Beach, SC; a son, Donald Zavala, Jr. and his wife, Linda of Prescott, AZ; sister, Gini McDonough of Warner Springs, CA; seven grandchildren, Jeff, Steve, Tiffany, Heather, Tim, Christine, and Michael; and five great grandchildren, Gavin, Oliver, Pearson, Reece and Finnick; stepchildren, Susan Bentley and her husband, Bill and Mark Andress; and step-granddaughter, Elizabeth.

Donald proudly served in the United States Army during WWII. He went on to graduate from the College of Wooster, Ohio in 1945 and then studied medicine at the University of Cincinnati Medical School where he graduated in 1948. He completed an internship and internal medicine residency at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, Iowa City, IA. He then returned to Imperial Valley, CA where he worked in private practice for 17 years (1952-1969). Eager for something more he switched focus to chest medicine and was invited to be the first pulmonary fellow in the new Division of Pulmonary Diseases at the University of Iowa. After completing specialty training he was given an academic appointment at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine and in 1976 was made professor of Medicine and director of pulmonary diagnostic laboratories, including bronchoscopy, pulmonary function, and cardiopulmonary exercise testing and pulmonary rehabilitation. He was a pioneer in flexible fiberoptic bronchoscopy and gained world recognition in this field. In September of 1992 he was honored as the “Father of Fiberoptic Bronchoscopy in America” at the 7th World Congress for Bronchology held at the Mayo Clinic. Dr. Zavala gives credit to the inventor of this unique diagnostic instrument to Dr. Shigeto Ikeda, National Cancer Institute, Tokyo, Japan.

Don published 67 articles in medical journals, wrote a chapter in 7 medical books on pulmonary diagnostic procedures, wrote 4 major medical textbooks and co-authored two more, one in German and one in Spanish. Also, Dr. Zavala served as a visiting professor and gave over 250 major presentations in the USA and twenty foreign countries.

In 1992 Dr. Zavala retired and moved to St. Simons Island, GA.  In 2016, he relocated to Surfside Beach, SC. He was recently elected by the American College of Chest Physicians as a “Giant in Pulmonary Medicine.”

He enjoyed going to church, trading stocks, keeping up on medical advancements, and spending time with his family. The last five years, he has been a resident of Inlet Coastal Resort in Murrells Inlet, where he enjoyed teaching the residents Spanish, exercise, and trivia. 

A celebration of Donald’s life will be held 10:00am Thursday, September 29, 2022 at Belin United Methodist Church, 4182 US-17 Business Murrells Inlet, SC 29576. The live stream for the SC service can be found at:

A second celebration of Donald’s life will be held 2:00PM Tuesday October 25, 2022 at Wesley United Methodist Church,  6520 Frederica Rd, St. Simons Island, GA 31522. Burial will immediately follow at Oglethorpe Memorial Gardens, 5775 Frederica Rd, St. Simons Island, GA 31522, with military honors.

The family has requested that memorial contributions in Don’s name be made to the American Heart Association, or to the FaithWorks Ministry in St. Simons Island, GA,

Condolences may be made at

Burroughs Funeral Home and Cremation Services of Murrells Inlet (843.651.1440) is in charge of arrangements.

To send flowers to the family, please visit our floral store.


Celebration of Life
September 29, 2022

10:00 AM
Belin United Methodist Church (US)

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