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Dr. Milt VanGundy retires from UnityPoint Health-Marshalltown

Physician ‘demonstrated highest respect for patients’

Tuesday was the end of an era at UnityPoint Health-Marshalltown.

Dr. Milt VanGundy is hanging up his stethoscope to enjoy life or perhaps read.

VanGundy has been a part of Marshalltown’s medical landscape for the last 45 years. In that time, he’s served in family practice, the emergency department and wound care.

Hundreds of former patients, colleagues and well-wishers lined up to greet or thank VanGundy during a two-hour reception at the UnityPoint Health Medical Park.

Many of them grasped both of VanGundy’s hands in appreciation, or gave him huge hugs.

Taking VanGundy’s position at the Wound Clinic is Dr. J. Michael McCune, who has been a general surgeon for 34 years, including 22 with the Marshalltown hospital.

After graduating from the University of Kansas medical school and serving his family medicine residency, VanGundy started family practice in 1974 by joining two partners – Dr. Jim Burke and Dr. Ed Jacobs. He was a family practice doctor back when they removed tonsils.

VanGundy once remarked medical school was challenging.

“While in medical school I did not read a book for recreation,” he said. “I was always studying.”

VanGundy was one of the last holdouts in town to stop doing obstetrics.

As he helped grow local primary care, he was an integral part of a consolidation of providers under McFarland Clinic when it came to town and served on its board for a short time.

VanGundy was named the Iowa Academy of Family Practice president for a year and taught residents the skill of intubating pediatric patients by using kittens from his country home.

“I recall bringing a bunch of drunk kittens home after that weekend,” said his son, Dr. Lance VanGundy, the current medical director at UnityPoint Health – Marshalltown.

“But the technique was pioneering in that time.”

The father left family practice and joined his son in the emergency department at the turn of the century.

VanGundy proved to be one of the highest-quality doctors. He had some of the lowest return-in-72-hour rates and some of the highest patient satisfaction scores.

After more than a decade in the emergency department, the elder VanGundy doctor retired for a short period.

Not long after, he took on another challenge, starting the Wound Clinic under Healogics in the UnityPoint Health Medical Park. VanGundy helped the clinic win many annual awards for quality and patient satisfaction.

But VanGundy always credited staff for their many contributions to those awards.

“Milt’s a breed of doctor that we don’t see much these days,” said his son. “He has always had a passion for improving the medical community as a whole and worked for his part to improve it locally and at the state level.

“When I think about the kind of doctor I aspire to be, it’s Milt. He was always engaged in the patient, meeting them on their terms with the kind of emotional intelligence to understand their needs. He combined the empathy and compassion of a healer, tempered by the sternness of a mentor. He demonstrated the highest respect for his patients and coworkers at all times regardless of their station in life. Those are lessons you don’t learn in medical school, and he embodied them every day.”

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Contact Mike Donahey at 641-753-6611 or mdonahey@timesrepublican.com

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