Dean History: 1910s- Dean - WI

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Dean Medical Group's History

A Tour Through The Decades

  • A postcard, circa 1910, depicts St. Mary’s Hospital.
  • Dr. Joe Dean is shown wearing scrubs in this photo, circa 1910.
  • Dr. Joe Dean wrote this 1926 newspaper article, highlighting how St. Mary’s Hospital focuses on patients, not doctors.
  • The house that Joe Dean and his wife Minna built in the early 1910s is shown here.
  • The 1919 Madison City Directory listing features Drs. Joe and James Dean.
  • Shown here are surgical instruments used by Drs. Joe and James Dean in the 1910s.
  • Drs. Joe and James Dean make the local news for a world record-setting fourth surgery on the same woman.
  • Dr. James Dean is pictured in his military uniform holding a baby, from approximately 1918.
  • Dr. James Dean makes the news in 1918 with his promotion to lieutenant colonel.

St. Mary’s Hospital, A Second Dean Physician and World War I

The only hospital in Madison—Madison General, which opened in 1903—had reached its 30-patient capacity within the first year. Demand far exceeded the supply, even when the social custom was to treat most illnesses and injuries at home.

This overcrowding sparked the desire of local Catholics to establish their own hospital. Many of Madison’s religious and medical leaders tried, unsuccessfully over several years, to bring a “Sisters’ hospital” to town. Finally, in 1910, the Sisters of St. Mary (now known as the Franciscan Sisters of Mary) of St. Louis agreed to take on the project, largely because of the tireless efforts of Reverend Henry C. Hengell and several Madison physicians, including Dr. Joseph Dean. St. Mary’s Hospital officially opened on September 22, 1912.

Personal connections to St. Mary’s

Before St. Mary’s opened, however, Dr. Dean’s young sons were actually treated in the hospital. “When I was 3 years old,” Frank later recalled, “my brother Joseph and I had Typhoid Fever. We were a couple of the hospital’s first patients—even before it formally opened. The only thing I recall about that time is that someone brought me a balloon and I sat on it and broke it!”

When the hospital officially opened, Dr. Joe sent the first patient and performed the first surgery. In 1926, when St. Mary’s medical staff was formally organized, Dr. Joe became the hospital’s first chief of staff and served in that capacity until 1930.

Dean power, times two

Dr. Joe formed a different kind of partnership in 1915 with his brother, Dr. James P. Dean. After completing his internship at Bellevue Hospital in New York, “Dr. Jim” became Joe’s first partner. The partnership was interrupted a few years later when Dr. Jim enlisted in the Army Medical Corps during World War I, where he distinguished himself by operating on wounded soldiers while under enemy fire.

During his brother’s absence, Dr. Joe experienced one of the most exhausting periods of his medical career. When the so-called “Spanish flu” epidemic struck Madison in 1918, many physicians were away because of the war. The few physicians left in Madison often worked until they could hardly stand up. Joe’s wife, Minna, recalled a night when she heard him pull his car into the driveway. Upon looking for him, she found Dr. Joe so exhausted that he had fallen asleep on a stool in front of the furnace with the coal shovel in his hand.

Building a reputation

After the war, Dr. Joe continued to develop a stellar reputation as a general physician and surgeon in the Madison area. Competition with the rival Jackson Clinic was fierce in those days, and the competitive spirit Dr. Joe developed as an athlete now served him well as he built his medical practice.

On one occasion, he sent a patient to the hospital, diagnosed with appendicitis. Shortly thereafter, a nurse called and told him, “You’d better get over here because Dr. Jackson is going to operate on that patient.” Joe immediately raced to the hospital on his bicycle to perform the appendectomy before Dr. Jackson arrived.

Over time, Dr. Joe was often the patient’s surgeon of choice, having built that reputation by performing operations at St. Mary’s, in rural physicians’ offices and in patient’s homes, too.

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