The Seeds for Dean Clinic are Planted
The history of Dean Clinic may have germinated long before Dr. Joseph Dean opened the first clinic in 1904. A review of his family history hints at a path that ultimately resulted in one of the largest integrated health care delivery systems in the country.
The first American “Deans”
Dr. Joseph Dean’s grandparents, Thomas Jackson Dean and Elizabeth Brocklehurst, immigrated in 1849 to Milwaukee from Manchester, England, along with their 1-year-old son, Joseph (Dr. Joseph Dean’s father). The family moved to Madison the following year, and Deans have continued to reside in Madison for the next 160 years through today.
During the Civil War, the first of five generations of Deans entered the health care field. In 1864, 15-year-old Joseph Dean Sr. enlisted in the Union Army’s Company F of the Fifth Wisconsin Infantry. He served as a nurse in City Point, Virginia, until the spring of 1865, when the war ended. Like his father, he became a carpenter/contractor and served as an alderman for Madison’s fourth ward. Joseph Dean Sr. remained an active participant in the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) veterans’ organization throughout his life. Perhaps his experiences as a nurse tending to injured soldiers gave his son, the future Dr. Joe, his first inkling that he, too, might want to practice medicine someday.
In 1872, Joseph Sr. married Mary Ann Donovan, who had moved to Madison with her family in 1858 when she was 6 years old. Mary Ann was the daughter of Patrick Donovan and Mary O’Brien, who had emigrated from Ireland’s County Tipperary and County Cork, respectively. Joseph and Mary Ann had nine children, including the founder of the Dean Clinic, Joseph Jr. Showcasing his mother’s Irish influence when he himself was a parent, Dr. Joe would alert his children about his building anger by warning them, “Don’t get my Irish up!”
A cousin’s influence
Another “seed” that might have contributed to Joseph Jr.’s decision to become a physician was the career path of his first cousin, Joseph P. Donovan. The son of Mary Ann Donovan’s older brother, Joseph Donovan was four years older than the future Dr. Joe and also grew up in Madison. He trained to become a physician in Chicago toward the end of the 1800s, as would his cousin Joe a few years later.
Upon graduation, Dr. Donovan was employed as the “house physician” at the Emergency Hospital in Milwaukee in 1901, returned to Madison in 1903, and became the City of Madison’s Health Officer from 1904 to 1917. Dr. Joe would later express great admiration for his cousin’s achievements in the city health department: “I can recall when Dr. Joseph Donovan became health officer, public health activities were in a state of chaos, food and milk inspection and sewerage disposal were still in the Dark Ages, and that through Dr. Donovan’s efforts, a sane beginning was made in city public affairs.”
Perhaps young Joe Dean possessed an admiration for this older cousin when they were children which influenced his decision to pursue a career in medicine, just like Joseph Donovan.