Dean History: Dr. Richard Botham- Dean - WI

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Dean Medical Group's History

A Tour Through The Decades

Dean History: Dr. Richard Botham

Dr. Richard BothamDr. Richard Botham: Dean’s First Heart Surgeon Helps Build Referral Network

Dr. Edwin Schneiders, one of the founders of Dean Clinic, reputedly delivered more babies than any physician in Wisconsin between 1920s to the 1950s. Among the thousands of babies Schneiders delivered during his illustrious career, the delivery of Richard “Dick” Botham at St. Mary’s Hospital on New Year’s Day in 1926 had perhaps the greatest impact on southern Wisconsin’s health care community.

Botham graduated from West High School in Madison in 1944, then served in the U. S. Navy from 1944-46. He attended UW-Madison for his undergraduate training and played varsity football, boxed and ran track. He subsequently attended the UW Medical School, graduating in 1952. He completed his general surgery residency at the Mayo Clinic in 1957, completed his cardiothoracic residency from the UW-Medical School in 1959 and soon became the eleventh physician on the Dean Clinic staff.

Cardiovascular surgery program

Dr. Botham spent his career specializing in vascular, thoracic and general surgery. He started the cardiovascular surgery program at St. Mary’s in the 1960s and recruited many of the city’s leading heart specialists. After he retired in 1991, he served as the first physician outreach coordinator for Dean Clinic. He also co-chaired a $10 million campaign to build Madison’s first HospiceCare Center and was a member of the Hospice Foundation Board for six years.

Botham’s skills as a thoracic and cardiovascular surgeon were renowned. He was admired by his colleagues and beloved by his grateful patients. He also took great delight in teaching residents as a clinical professor of surgery for the UW Medical School.

Cultivating the referral base

Botham’s charisma, strength of character, charm and relationships with referring physicians were the building blocks for the Dean/St. Mary’s referral network and Dean’s specialty outreach program.

Soon after he began working at Dean Clinic in 1959, he was dissatisfied with his light work load. Botham began visiting hospitals outside of Madison, including Sauk City, Dodgeville and Fort Atkinson where Dean physicians had previously received referrals.

He’d meet with the family practice physicians, give lectures and ask physicians to send him referrals when they needed assistance. He promised he’d take good care of the patients, refer them to other specialists when warranted and stay in close contact with the referring physician so that they’d know what was happening with their patient.

This new outreach initiative was embodied by Dr. Botham’s motto, “send him, thank you,” which meant he and his colleagues would take good care of all referral patients promptly, competently and appreciatively.

Dr. Botham later said, “I never had a call [from a referring physician] in 33 years in the middle of the night that I didn’t get up and go see that patient, and operate on him if necessary. And I’d always call that doctor right away after I operated on them.” This insightful strategy of cultivating the referral base provided a firm basis for forging relationships and building trust between Dean physicians and other referring physicians, which has continued to this day.

Devoted to what he loved

When he retired in 1991, Botham reflected upon his time with Dean/St. Mary’s, “I’ve had a beautiful life here in the practice of medicine, and obviously I will leave this world with great feelings about this institution and the people that were part of it. I spent my whole life here, from dawn to dusk a lot of days. I think I’ve done what I really should do and I loved it.”

After he retired, Botham spent much of his time helping out in his son Peter's winemaking business in Barneveld, until he passed away in 2010 at the age of 84.

His contributions to St. Mary’s Hospital, the Dean Clinic, HospiceCare, and the UW Medical School have left an indelible stamp on Madison’s health care scene that lives on today.

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