Dean History: 1970s- Dean - WI

Skip to Content


Dean Medical Group's History

A Tour Through The Decades

Dean History: 1970s

  • Pictured is the cover of a special 1979 publication marking the 75th anniversary of Dean Clinic’s founding.
  • President of the Dean Clinic Board of Directors Dr. Lou Bernhardt shared a message in the Clinic’s 75th anniversary publication.
  • A staff listing included in the 1979 special publication marking Dean Clinic’s 75th anniversary.
  • In 1970, Dr. Kathryn Nichol became the first female Dean Clinic pediatrician. In 1990, she was named as the first female St. Mary’s Hospital Chief of Staff.
  • Serving Madison’s west side area, the Madison West Clinic offers comprehensive medical services and urgent care.

1970s
More Services, More Space, More Convenience

In celebration of the 75th anniversary of its founding, Dean Clinic produced a publication called “New Dean Clinic Branch Office Highlights 75 Years of Medical Service, 1904-1979.” The publication was particularly striking in its description of the tremendous growth of services provided to patients by 1979.

During the 1970s, in addition to general surgery, the surgical subspecialties of cardiovascular, thoracic, orthopedic, urologic, ophthalmologic and pediatric surgery were represented. Improved methods for diagnosis and treatment were employed with a well-equipped laboratory and radiology department, a physical therapy section and other support services.

Comprehensive neurological service now included EEG (brain wave testing) and EMG (nerve testing) in the evaluation of epilepsy, stroke damage, seizures and other related problems.

Advancements and new technology

As cardiovascular medicine advanced and people began to focus on preventing heart disease, the stress test [to measure the effectiveness of the heart muscle and record the heartbeat on an electrocardiogram] was now a diagnostic tool available to Dean Clinic cardiologists. The newest technology in pain relief, Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS), was now used both in the clinic and available as a home unit to interrupt the pain cycle for patients who suffered pain with no known means of relief.

The laboratory nearly tripled in space, and acquisition of new cutting-edge equipment allowed physicians to obtain more diagnostic test results within the clinic. Computers were used to handle “much of the time-consuming paperwork,” and foreshadowed the electronic records revolution that occurred several decades later.

In the anniversary publication, Dr. Lou Bernhardt, president of Dean Clinic’s Board of Directors, wrote, “through systematic expansion and controlled growth, the Dean Clinic has been transformed into a multispecialty clinic with representation of the medical specialties. In addition to the physicians, ancillary services of xray, lab, physical therapy, behaviorist counseling and dieticians are represented. This diversity of services allows patients to obtain effective, almost immediate, consultation when necessary.”

A multispecialty clinic

Dr. Paul Simenstad, an internist who began practicing with Dean in 1964, described the advantage of being part of a multispecialty clinic. “It was an interesting phenomenon because Dean became bigger and bigger with more and more specialties, and so then I and my partners were all from different specialties,” said Simenstad.

“What would happen, if I would see a patient and they had to see a surgeon, I’d just pick up the phone and call the surgeon. And they’d see them [the patient] that day. So it was just very, very easy to get it done because you [had] wonderful communication with an urologist or an orthopedist or whatever. [Whereas] in many practices, you have to call and make an appointment two weeks later and so on. So it’s just the closeness and the care is much more complete when you have multispecialists who are so readily available.”

More growth and expansion

By 1979, Dean obstetricians were delivering more than 1000 babies a year. Surgeons were performing more than 2000 major surgical procedures. There were more than 3400 minor outpatient surgical procedures done at the clinic. And there approximately 200,000 patient visits to the clinic. This growth resulted in the opening of a second clinic at 202 S. Gammon Road in an effort to increase patient access to the expanding west side and suburbs of Madison.

Dean’s outreach campaign to small town hospitals in southern Wisconsin, which began in the 1960s, significantly contributed to the tremendous growth that continued in the 1970s. The expansion of Dean’s referral base was reinforced and supplemented by the opening of the University of Wisconsin’s Department of Family Medicine in 1970. The dean of the department determined that new family practice physicians would best be trained by family practice physicians working in a community setting.

Hence, the new department’s administrative offices, clinical care, residency training and much of the medical student education were housed at St. Mary’s Hospital. Dean Clinic physicians became the primary instructors for the students. Many of these students became family practice physicians throughout southern Wisconsin after they completed their residencies at St. Mary’s. Having been trained by Dean Clinic physicians, they developed strong ties to Dean, which ultimately strengthened Dean Clinic’s reputation and referral base in the communities where the new physicians practiced.

Paving the way for female physicians

Dean Clinic changed in several other noteworthy ways during the 1970s. Dr. Kathryn Nichol became the second female physician to join the staff and its first female pediatrician in 1970.

Among her many accomplishments, Dr. Nichol became the first female Chief of Staff for St. Mary’s Hospital and pioneered a statewide campaign in hospitals to institute car safety programs for young children that continues today with work done by the Dean Foundation. She helped pave the way for the subsequent explosion of female physicians and other female healthcare professionals who would subsequently become part of Dean and assume other positions of leadership within the organization.

The end of an era

The presence of having descendants of founder Dr. Joseph Dean on the Dean Clinic staff came to an end during the 1970s, as The Capital Times headline on November 30, 1978 noted, “No Dr. Dean at clinic after Jan. 1.”

The accompanying article described the end of an era at Dean Clinic when Dr. James (“J.L.”) Dean announced he would retire from Dean Clinic on January 1, 1979 and move his practice to Door County, where “there was a little slower pace of living.” His cousin, Dr. Frank L. Dean, had retired in 1973, and so J.L’s departure meant there would no longer be any members of the Dean family practicing medicine for Dean Clinic for the first time since its founding in 1904.

The growth of the clinic through J.L’s thirty-two-year tenure at Dean Clinic was striking, as he noted, “When I joined the clinic in 1947, there were eight doctors associated with the clinic. Now there are 55 doctors and 250 other employees.”

  • Connect with us on Facebook
  • See us on YouTube
  • Connect with us on LinkedIn

© 2018 Dean Health Plan, Inc. | All rights reserved.

A Member of SSM Health

SSM Health and the infinity symbol are trademarks of SSM Health and its affiliates.