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Letter: A tribute to John W. Ovtiz Jr.

Published: Wednesday, June 12, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

To the Editor:

The recent passing of Sycamore’s Dr. John W. Ovtiz is noteworthy for his living to age 99. As an associate for 30 years and friend since, it seems appropriate for me to highlight what it meant to be a “licensed physician and surgeon” (GP) in the old days.

“Dr. John” possessed the skills and integrity required of such a doctor. He and his colleagues in DeKalb County faced many challenges in their day.

He covered the emergency room, had office hours six days a week, was on-call for patients at all hours, made hospital and nursing home rounds, made home calls (including a rare emergency home delivery) and sat near the bench to monitor high school football games.

In those days, especially before speed limits and seat belts, auto accidents were frequent and often severe. Caring for the injured disrupted sleep, dinner or office hours.

The area had few specialists in the early years. Mentoring from his father helped Dr. Ovitz become experienced in abdominal surgery – doing bowel resections, gall bladder, spleen or kidney removal, and other procedures, and delivering more than 2,000 babies in his 50 years.

He handled severe fractures using plates and screws. He pinned fractured hips, a common occurrence in the elderly in those times, did skin grafting in burn patients and amputations of limbs. He had patience and kept a calm demeanor.

His father (“Pappy”), a GP practicing earlier in Genoa and Sycamore, along with Dr. Carl Clark (later the radiologist), formed the Elm Street Clinic in the late 1940s when Dr. John returned from World War II. I joined in 1956.

In the late 60s and 70s, specialists came to the area in greater numbers. We welcomed them, as technology was fast making the old GP obsolete. Dr. De Graffenried – pathologist, Dr. Prabhakar – surgeon, Dr. Brandon – orthopedist, Dr. Boyles – obstetrician, were key additions to the hospital staff. There were others to follow as Kishwaukee Community Hospital came to be on Sycamore Road.

Dr. John also had wonderful organizational skills. He was the key in the development and functioning of Sycamore Hospital medical staff.

He conceived the Sycamore Medical Fund in cooperation with administration to build a scholarship for youth to pursue medical studies.

Lastly, his ideas of association kept us three doctors together for 30 years in the clinic.

William G. Thomas, M.D. (retired)

Northport, Mich.

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