Dean History: 1930s- Dean - WI

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  • Dr. Frank Dean is shown circa 1930 with the plane he bought two years earlier, one of the first airplanes built for private flyers.
  • The Deans, from left: Frank, Joe, James and JC.
  • The Deans, from left: JC, Joe and Frank.
  • Dean Clinic’s first pediatrician was Dr. Hart Van Riper, who joined the team in October 1933.
  • Dr. JC Dean from the early 1930s.
  • Dr. JC Dean celebrates his wedding.
  • Dr. JC Dean poses with his family.
  • Dr. Frank Dean is shown here wearing a parachute. He was a pioneering pilot in the early 1930s - the early days of aviation.

The Great Depression, Dr. Joseph Dean Retires

The purchase of a new site for Dean Clinic was completed in 1929, just before the beginning of the Great Depression. Soon, collections for medical work dropped drastically and the clinic partners tried, unsuccessfully, to sell two houses they owned on property adjacent to the clinic building.

Despite the challenges posed by the economic crisis, Dean Clinic continued to care for patients, including those most severely affected by the financial crisis. As much as one-third of the clinic’s work during the Depression was charity work. Payment was commonly accepted in the form of produce, poultry and goods ranging from mantel clocks to lace.

A free health clinic was opened at St. Mary’s Hospital in 1933 for “the indigent sick” under the leadership of Dr. James Dean, who had succeeded his brother as the hospital’s chief of staff. Among the 12 physicians who volunteered their services at the free clinic were Dr. Jim Dean, Dr. Joe Dean, Dr. Edwin Schneiders, and Dean’s newest physician, Dr. Joseph Dean Jr.

Growing staff

Dean Clinic’s staff grew in the 1930s, and new specialties were added. Dr. Mares H. Wirig brought expertise in surgery and obstetrics when he joined the team in 1930. He remained with Dean Clinic until 1932, when he went into practice for himself. Non-surgical care of patients became a specialty in itself, and internal medicine physician Dr. Charles F. Burke joined the staff in 1932. He would remain with Dean Clinic for nearly 35 years.

Dr. Hart Van Riper became Dean’s first pediatrician in 1933. He remained with Dean until 1941, when he left for Washington, D.C. He eventually became the medical director of the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis (now called “The March of Dimes”), where he shepherded the development of vaccines that virtually wiped out polio in the United States.

The second generation of Deans began to filter into the clinic in 1932 with the arrival of Dr. Joe’s oldest son, Dr. Joseph C. (“J.C.”) Dean Jr. J.C. became a highly regarded surgeon whose patients came to Madison from all over the country to receive his care. His younger brother, Dr. Frank K. Dean, joined Dean Clinic in 1935 as a general physician. Beloved by colleagues and patients alike, Dr. Frank Dean, who also was a pioneering aviator, worked with the clinic until his retirement in 1973 and then volunteered for Dean Clinic and St. Mary’s Hospital for another 20 years.

Leadership transfer to a new generation

By the time Dr. Joe suffered a heart attack in January 1935, his son J.C. had been able to work with him for about two and a half years. Dr. Joe recovered and was able to return to active practice until declining health forced him to retire in 1938. By this time, J.C. and Frank were able to assume additional responsibilities to help manage the clinic along with their uncle and other colleagues.

One of the tributes Dr. Joe most cherished when he retired was the expression of gratitude he received from the medical staff at St. Mary’s Hospital. They dedicated a bronze plaque to him that, for many years, was displayed in the hospital’s main entryway. It read: “To honor Dr. Joseph Dean, this tablet is erected by the staff of St. Mary’s Hospital in 1938.” Its current home is within the skybridge that spans Brooks Street, connecting St. Mary’s Hospital with the Dean & St. Mary’s Outpatient Center.

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