MARSHALLTOWN – On December 4, Dr. Milt VanGundy is retiring from a lifetime of services to the Marshalltown medical community.
And he’s taking with him a legacy of pioneering change and mentoring future doctors.
Dr. VanGundy has been a part of Marshalltown’s medical landscape for the past 45 years. In that time, he’s served in family practice, the emergency department and wound care. No matter the setting, he blended the ability to serve as people’s advocate, while also validating their sense of self-worth and engaging them as partners in their own health care.
There will be a reception for Dr. VanGundy on Tuesday, December 3, from 4-6 p.m. in the front atrium of the UnityPoint Health – Marshalltown Medical Park (South Campus). Taking Dr. 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 hospital in Marshalltown.
After graduating from the University of Kansas medical school and serving his family medicine residency in Cedar Rapids, Dr. VanGundy started family practice in 1974 by joining two partners known to the community – Dr. Jim Burke and Dr. Ed Jacobs. He was a family practice doctor back when they removed tonsils, managed ventilator patients in the ICU and performed as first assist on complex abdominal surgeries. In fact, he 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.
He 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,” quipped his son, Dr. Lance VanGundy, the current Medical Director at UnityPoint Health – Marshalltown. “But the technique was pioneering in that time.”
And long before patient access was a priority in the form of urgent care and after-hours clinics, Milt was staying late on his half-day off to provide access for employees on shift work, such as Lennox and Fishers. He was also integral in starting Iowa River Hospice in Marshalltown.
Furthermore, Milt was a champion of mentoring student doctors. For years he was the lead contact for the Medical Education and Community Orientation program engaging MD students from University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics to spend the summer rotating with different doctors in the community.
Milt left family practice and joined Lance in the emergency department at the turn of the century and 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, Milt retired. He soon became bored, though, and started up the current Wound Clinic under Healogics in Marshalltown, where he’s helped the clinic win award after award for quality and metrics.
Finally, Milt was instrumental in facilitating and smoothing over the UnityPoint Health transition as it moved to town.
“Milt’s a breed of doctor that we don’t see much these days,” says Lance. “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,” added Lance. “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 (when appropriate) 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.”