Joseph Trotzig, MD


What is your hometown?

My present hometown is Naples, Florida, but I grew up in Vermillion, South Dakota and practiced family medicine in Akron, Iowa for 34 years.

How/when did you become interested in science and medicine?

All through my childhood I admired and respected our family doctor. When I was in high school, there was a charismatic science teacher who aroused my interest in all fields of science. I decided then I wanted a career in either chemistry or medicine.

What interested you to pursue a career in medicine and medical education?

After my first year in college at the University of South Dakota, I realized my interest was definitely in the field of medicine, and I selected premed as my major. But this was 1942, one year after Pearl Harbor, and times changed. I was enrolled in ROTC and, along with many of my friends, decided to enlist in the Army Reserves and await a call to active duty. I was disappointed when I discovered the Army was not going to call me up because I was a premed major. So I went to the registrar’s office and changed my major to chemistry, temporarily abandoning my medical education. A month later I was called to active duty in the Infantry. After completing basic infantry training, I was told by the Army that I qualified for ASTP (Army Specialized Training Program), and they sent me back to college at the University of Illinois where I completed my premedical courses.

Please highlight your major career achievements, awards, discoveries, etc.

I was inducted into Alpha Omega Alpha while in medical school and was president of the Medical Student Council my senior year. After graduating from medical school in 1949, I re-enlisted in the army for my internship at Brooke General Hospital in San Antonio. Then I served as a Captain in the Army Medical Corps for two years in the Army of Occupation in Germany and was made assistant chief of surgery at the 57th Field Hospital in Giessen.

Shortly after starting my medical practice in Akron, Iowa in 1952, I became a member of the American Academy of General Practice and later became a Charter Fellow in its successor, the American Academy of Family Physicians. When Family Practice became a specialty, I took the board exams and became Diplomate of the American Board of Family Practice.

I became active in the Plymouth County Medical Society and was president for several years and was the county delegate to Iowa State Medical Society meetings in Des Moines for over 20 years. Governor Harold Hughes appointed me to the Iowa Advisory Council for Hospitals and Other Health Facilities during the years when so many new community hospitals were being built under the Hill-Burton Act. I also authored a paper published in the Journal of the Iowa Society.

I was CEO of the Akron Clinic, PC, Chief of Staff of the Akron Hospital and on the staffs of the Hawarden Hospital and Mercy Hospital in LeMars – as well as the three larger hospitals in Sioux City.

Early in my practice I started to become interested in community affairs, serving on the School Board, the Town Council for many years and was even Mayor for two years and was listed in Who’s Who. I joined the computer age in the 1980’s and became particularly interested in genealogy. I wrote a 300 page book on Trotzig History. I also had a biographical book about my grandfather copyrighted (for sale in South Dakota).

Is there a teacher, mentor or UI Carver College of Medicine faculty member who has helped shape your education?

Drs. Robert Tidrick, Willis Fowler (26MD) and Albert McKee (41MD) were my role models in medical school. Dr. McKee selected me for a hospital externship in bacteriology that I served until I graduated.

How or why did you choose the University of Iowa for your education and medical training?

I did not have to choose the University of Iowa; it was chosen for me after I finished premed in the ASTP at the University of Illinois. I had the good fortune of being interviewed by an admissions committee from the University of Iowa and was picked for the freshman class of 1945. I have always felt this was one of the most fortunate events in my life.

What kind of professional opportunities or advantages has your University of Iowa medical training provided?

A diploma from the University of Iowa, in itself, gave me an advantage when I began my family practice. The townspeople checked up on me with their friends in Iowa City.

More specifically, my bacteriology externship provided me with extra training in the diagnosis of infectious diseases which was valuable in my medical practice - especially when I did my own Gramm stains on spinal fluid in meningitis cases.

Please describe your professional interests.

Shortly after starting my family practice, I happened to read a copy of Medical Economics and have ever since had a particular interest in the wide-ranging aspects of rural medical practice and community hospitals. Although my practice was in a small rural community, I made a special effort to keep current in medical advances by taking continuing education courses at the University of Iowa as well as ones in Nebraska and Minnesota.

What are some of your outside interests?

I became interested in flying while I was still in medical school and took flying lessons at the Iowa City airport and received my pilot’s license. I never owned a plane or had time to do much flying after starting my medical practice in Akron except when I flew with friends to medical meetings. After I retired and moved to Florida, I rejoined the aviation scene and was a Major in the Marco Island Civil Air Patrol. Boating and fishing have been my favorite sports – especially while living on Marco Island where I belonged to the U.S. Power Squadron and was also president of the Nautilus Condominium.

Playing golf and tennis have provided a different dimension of activity that I enjoyed until arthritis finally took the fun out of it.

Since my high school days I have always played bridge and participated in several tournaments. In the same vein I have always been interested in photography and at one time did the developing, printing and enlarging for my high school year book.

My current special interest is oil painting, and I have had paintings on display in several art shows.

Do you have an insight or philosophy that guides you in your professional work?

Always keep perspective on what is possible versus what is practical, and never underestimate the satisfaction of doing something well.

If you could change one thing about the practice or business of medicine, what would it be?

There are many more things than just one, but basically they all involve the reduction or elimination of the extraneous factors that interfere with the practice of medicine. Of primary concern is the epidemic of malpractice litigation that has lowered the quality and increased the cost of medical care. The size of the plaintiff awards have led to many unnecessary and expensive tests being performed in an attempt to prevent even the remotest possibility of a law suit. After delivering over a thousand babies (with no adverse incidents), I had to give up the obstetrical part of my practice because of its additional cost for medical liability insurance. When I started my practice, my liability premiums were $35 a year. By the time I retired, they had increased to over $30,000 – a rate which many current physicians would now envy.

Another troubling problem for doctors is the interference of "third party payers", both commercial and governmental, that diverts time and effort away from patient care as well as requiring mountains of paperwork complying with arbitrary guidelines and regulations.

What is the biggest change you've experienced in medicine since you were a student?

Aside from the above, advances in the medical sciences have made phenomenal changes. New procedures have greatly changed the field of surgery with the introduction laparoscopic and endoscopic surgery – even robotic surgery. There have been great radiological advances with CAT scans and MRIs along with advances in radiation and chemotherapy - plus advances in pharmacology with marvelous new drugs and antibiotics.

On the negative side has been the arrival of AIDS and a whole array of auto-immune diseases.

What one piece of advice would you give to today's medical students?

Recognize the strengths and weaknesses in your abilities and concentrate on the areas of your strengths and minimize your weaknesses. Then your practice of medicine will provide patients with the best care you are capable of - which, in turn, will provide personal satisfaction from being good at what you do.

What do you see as "the future" of medicine?

I have strong feelings about the future of medicine. I know the future could be mind boggling. The cure for cancer may just be around the corner. Research on the human genome is just starting to open new avenues of treatment. Even the space program offers new understanding of physiology and possible adverse effects from loss of gravity.

However, and I know this subject is controversial; I worry about the threat of socialized medicine or nationalized health care. Many people, and especially many doctors including me, feel it has been a failure in the countries that have tried it, and England is already starting to move back toward a return of private practice - although its waiting lists are still as long as Canada’s.

When the government becomes interposed in the doctor-patient relationship, something vital is lost. The economic as well as the clinical aspect of medical practice becomes hostage to governmental regulations and patient care suffers. Much precious time and effort is channeled toward coping with bureaucratic guidelines and dealing with the “peer-review” organizations that officiously look over doctors’ shoulders.

If America goes down the socialism path, I have serious fears about the doctors of the future. Who will want to go through eight years of difficult college courses and then three to eight years of grueling residency training to finally, at the age of thirty-plus, be a minion of the government? Surely anyone with the intelligence to conquer this intellectual obstacle course would also realize that this would not be a fulfilling career choice.

Nor could altruism be expected to motivate one to participate in a medical system that forbids the selection of medical care based on judgment, but instead would be focused on cost containment, arbitrary treatment choices, rationing, price controls, quotas and waiting lists.

After a generation of physicians have experienced the frustrations of stultifying government regulations, who will be willing to fill their shoes? I suppose some would still be attracted by six-figure incomes, but medical schools would soon be begging for the highly qualified, idealistic applicants to which they have long been accustomed.

Most doctors of the future would then be a sorry collection of mediocre technicians, trying to practice cook-book medicine. Few could ever approach the standards of today’s doctors.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017