McKenna, Matthew

MCKENNA, Dr., Matthew Thomas, M.P.H.

Dr. Matthew "Matt" McKenna died on March 31, 2023, surrounded by family at his home in Sandy Springs, Georgia.

A doctor of family and preventive medicine, he was known for his jovial nature, sardonic wit and passion for promoting health. He always wore sunscreen and took the stairs.

Matt was born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1957, to Mary Constance McKenna (nee Nasuro) and William T. McKenna, Jr. His mother died when he was 5 years old. Extended family reared him until his father's remarriage to Mary Alsruhe. His sister, Patricia "Poppi" was born in 1967. Matt grew up in the suburb of Perry Hall where he met lifelong friend, William Krockeski. At Perry Hall High School, he played football and lacrosse and showed up on time for class. He majored in philosphy at Loyola University, Maryland.

In 1980, Matt attended Emory University School of Medicine, meeting future wife, Dr. Kathy Franch in freshman anatomy lab. On January 14, 1984, they married at Cathedral of Christ the King. He often recounted this was the most joyful day of his life.

Matt completed a residency in family medicine and a master's in public health at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. His daughter, Shannon was born in 1987. He then landed his dream job with the Public Health Service at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The family returned to Atlanta, and son, Gregory was born in 1990.

Each day of Dr. McKenna's 20-year service, he enthusiastically left home with the rallying cry, "Do it for America!" He contributed to prevention and control of cancer, HIV/AIDS, TB and smoking. He received awards for lasting contribution to prevention of HIV/AIDS and TB, and for leadership in tobacco control at the state, national and global level. Captain McKenna retired from the Commissioned Corps of the PHS in 2010; then, fulfilling another dream, he contributed locally, as Medical Director of the Fulton County Health Department.

After retirement from Fulton County, he was appointed professor of medicine at Emory University Medical School, Department of Family and Preventative Medicine. Matt directed the preventive medicine fellowship and delighted in teaching young doctors. They nicknamed him Dr. Woo Woo after he dismissed non-evidence based treatments as a "bunch of woo woo." In 2019, residents bestowed the outpatient teaching award, and Emory recognized him as a Hidden Gem.

Matt took rest as seriously as work. His post-church Sunday routine involved making pancakes for the family, reading all sections of two favorite newspapers, and then, with beer in hand and a bowl of precisely measured salty snacks, settling into the recliner to cheer on the Atlanta Falcons.

In April of 2019, Matt was diagnosed with glioblastoma. Over the next four years, Matt and Kathy dedicated each day to living their best lives. The family thanks Dr. Erin Dunbar and team at the Piedmont Brain Tumor Center for excellent care.

He is survived by wife, Dr. Katherine Franch; children, Shannon McKenna and Gregory McKenna; mother, Mary McKenna; and sister, Patricia McKenna Sparr. Father, William T. McKenna,Jr., predeceased him.

A memorial Mass at St. Jude the Apostle Catholic Church, Sandy Springs is planned for Tuesday, June 27, 2023 at 10:00 AM. In lieu of flowers, please donate to the American Brain Tumor Association ( Also, skip the elevator, take the stairs.

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