Dowagiac thanks docsPublished 11:27pm Tuesday, August 9, 2011
Four gifted physicians. One amazing gift.
That was the theme for the outpouring of appreciation showered on four physicians who devoted their careers to Dowagiac.
Borgess-Lee Memorial Hospital paid tribute Tuesday evening at Southwestern Michigan College’s Mathews Conference Center to the legacies of Boonchoo Chang, M.D., internal medicine specialist; Jashu N. Patel, M.D., general surgeon; Mohammad S. Zaman, M.D., general surgeon; and James L. Wierman, D.O., internal medicine specialist.
For four decades — Dr. Zaman was first to arrive, but last alphabetically — these “gifted physicians delivered one amazing gift — a healthier place to work, play and live.”
Collectively, they represent 145 years of service.
Joy Strand, the current administrator, was joined by former administrator Fritz Fahrenbacher, who served here four years in the late 1990s.
Strand, who joined Borgess-Lee 3 1/2 years ago, said, “I’ve worked in about seven different health care organizations in my 35-year career. In my entire career, I know of only one other physician who spent their entire career in one community. That physician is now 85 years old, and he’s still practicing.”
And no, it’s not Dr. Chang, as one wag in the audience guessed.
In fact, Strand was careful to clarify that Dr. Chang’s not retiring.
For the other three, the box score shows: Dr. Patel, 34 years; Dr. Wierman, 37 years; and Dr. Zaman, 40 years.
“It is fitting that we honor these individuals together,” Strand said, “because they have served this community as a team. They have practiced as a team. They have argued as a team and come together as a team. And all through this, they brought our hospital forward. We have been talking about their gifts to us all evening, and we could do that for many hours, but it is time for us to give a small token to honor their contributions to Borgess-Lee.” All served as chief of staff at one time or another.
Each doctor and his wife — Joyce Chang, Denise Wierman, Ila Patel and Jolly Zaman — was called forward as formal portraits of them were unveiled. Spouses were paid special tribute for keeping the home fires burning when their husbands were called away to administer “healing care.”
Dr. Wierman kidded his colleagues, “Through the years we’ve worked together as a team. When I needed one of them, they always showed up. Dr. Zaman in the middle of the night was heading in as quick as he could. Unfortunately, he didn’t open his garage door. Dr. Patel, if you called him in the morning, you had to make sure he was awake. Dr. Chang, he’d make rounds, then about a half hour later, he’d make rounds again and change orders. The nurses all know this … Three or four times a day he’d make rounds. The nurses have always been fantastic. It really feels like a team at the hospital. They do excellent care and there’s trust when you work together. I want to thank the town of Dowagiac. It’s been very good to us. It’s a wonderful town, and I love it. I had a great practice. I’d get to talking about fishing or hunting with patients. The last week I had a fellow come in I couldn’t figure out why he was there. He was just saying goodbye. We miss the sisters because of their sense of mission. WIthout that, you have nothing. That’s the most important thing.”
SMC President Dr. David Mathews said all three at one time or another “all did something to keep me vertical and on the right side of the grass.” Most recently, Dr. Wierman prescribed medication to keep the mountain climber “from expiring at high altitudes” during his second attempt at Mount Rainier.
“When I was a kid,” Mathews said, “Dr. Zaman operated on my. “In fall 2008, I got very ill very fast and what a blessing to go a mile and a half to a full-service hospital” and removal of his appendix by Dr. Patel.
“We truly enjoy having these people in our community and being a part of our community,” Mathews said.
“These four guys have given so much to this community,” said Dr. Matthew V. Cripe, a dentist. “The hospital is taking a big hit by seeing them slow down or stop. It’s great this many people came out to say thank you for what you’ve done. It’s nice to get a pat on the back.”
Former Chamber of Commerce president Doug Wiltse recalled his first encounter with Dr. Zaman, who was initially apprehensive about his decision to settle in Dowagiac.
Karen Judd, chair of the Lee Memorial Foundation, said, “These physicians provided compassionate care to thousands in our community over the decades, always there to provide talents, time and healing. They served the Dowagiac community well, but more importantly, they also made this their home.”
City Councilman Dr. Charles Burling, chairman of the hospital board for the past decade, said, “These four gifted physicians have been the fabric of Borgess-Lee for the past 40 years. I’ve practiced with these gentlemen the past 35 years” of his dental practice. “I’ve seen these guys in action. There are decades of leadership here. I’ve seen through the years their ability to agree to disagree. I’ve seen personalities cause division. Then I’ve seen camaraderie overcome personalities and close those divisions. A common theme with these four gentlemen is when push comes to shove, and decisions need to be made, they step forward with an incredible level of wisdom directed totally at patient care and to make Borgess-Lee the best hospital around. In my mind they’ve done that, and I thank them for it.”
Burling added, “Keep their wives in your prayers because their husbands are coming home.”