Dean History: Dr. Joseph C. “J.C.” Dean Jr- Dean - WI

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Dean History: Dr. Joseph C. “J.C.” Dean Jr

Dr. Joseph C. Dean, Jr.Dr. Joseph C. “J.C.” Dean Jr.: “A Brilliant Surgeon”

For generations, when people heard the family name “Dean,” it was common for them to ask about the possible relation to the first Dean doctors. Case in point: Tim Dean, the grandson of Dr. Joseph Dean and son of Dr. J.C. Dean, would visit his wife’s family in Portage, Wisconsin. People would gratefully tell him stories about how his grandfather or father had saved their lives, sometimes performing operations on their kitchen tables.

Following Dad’s footsteps

Joseph C. Dean was born on August 3, 1906. He attended Madison Central High School and graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1927. He married the former Alice O’Neill in 1928. After receiving his medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1930 (the same school his uncle Dr. James P. Dean had attended), he completed an internship in surgery at Philadelphia General Hospital. In 1932, Dr. Dean returned to Madison to join his father and uncle at Dean Clinic. The senior Dr. Joe had no middle name and so to avoid confusion, the younger Dr. Joseph Dean became known as Dr. J.C. or just J.C.*   

J.C. was a superb surgeon. He was soft-spoken and unflappable. Patients came to Madison from all over the country to receive treatment from him. His colleague, Dr. Arthur Sonneland, said, “J.C. was the most versatile surgeon I’ve ever known. Very good. In those days … he did a lot of urology, cystoscopy and he did a lot of orthopedics as well as general surgery.” Another colleague, Dr. Tom Geppert, described him as “a brilliant surgeon” and added, “Everybody consulted with Joe. … I had more faith in Joe and a diagnosis of appendicitis than anybody I’ve ever seen.”

In the late 1930s, J.C. became a fellow of the American College of Surgeons and was certified by the American Board of Surgery, a rare and highly regarded certification to possess in those days.

Committed to service

He served in the U.S. Navy during World War II from 1944 to 1946, first as a Lieutenant Commander aboard the USS Jefferson in the Pacific and then stateside at the U.S. Naval Hospital in Norfolk and the Bunker Hill Naval Station Indiana. He received a battle star for participating in the battle of Okinawa. When the war ended, he resumed his practice in Madison and soon became the chief of staff at St. Mary’s Hospital in 1947. 

Tim Dean described his father as totally dedicated to medicine: “He was very intense about his profession in the best sense of the word. Not too many nights went by when he wasn’t called out in the middle of the night. And not a weekend or Saturday night went by when he wasn’t called out, either. It was often two or three times during the week the phone would ring and he’d be gone. Some nights he wouldn’t return home. He really worked hard.”

* Within the Dean family, Dr. Joseph Dean is known as “Big Daddy.” When his grandson, Joseph C. Dean Jr., had asked his father, “If you are daddy, then who is he (referring to his grandfather)?” His father replied, “Big Daddy.” Ever since then, Dr. Joseph Dean was referred to as “Big Daddy” within the Dean family.

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