Dean History: Davis Duehr Eye Associates- Dean - WI

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Dean Medical Group's History

A Tour Through The Decades

Dean History: Davis Duehr Eye Associates

Davis Duehr Eye Associates: Exceptional Vision

In 1914, Corydon Greenwood Dwight and Frederick Allison Davis joined in practice, marking the beginning of the formation of Davis Duehr Eye Associates, which would grow into one of the most respected eye care centers in the nation.

In 1995, Davis Duehr joined forces with Dean Medical Center, a merger that has provided both physicians and patients with even greater opportunities for optimal eye care.

How it started

Corydon Dwight, the son of the founder of the Winchester Arms Company that made the first 15,000 repeating rifles used in the Civil War, came to Madison from Michigan in 1910 to set up his practice in ophthalmology. At the time, he was one of only a handful of ophthalmologists in Wisconsin. Dwight quickly established himself as a leader in the community, including being one of the founders of the Henry Vilas Zoo.

In 1914, Dwight advertised for a partner. He found Dr. Frederick A. Davis, a highly trained and experienced ophthalmologist and house surgeon at the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary. Davis accepted Dwight’s offer and they formed a new partnership and clinic called the Dwight and Davis Eye Clinic.

Dwight and Davis remained a two-man practice for several years, working together at the 113 West Washington Avenue clinic. Davis was also named the head of the new ophthalmology department at the budding University of Wisconsin Medical School.

A growing reputation

By the early 1920s, Davis had developed an outstanding reputation as a cataract surgeon. The growing clinic expanded, adding Dr. Eugene Neff and Dr. Richard Bower to join their ranks in 1922. An early promotional booklet also lists two nurses, an optician and statistician as part of the staff.

When Dwight retired from the clinic in 1926, the clinic was renamed the Davis-Neff Clinic. Neff had been at the clinic for four years, and had been personally recruited by Davis from the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary. Known as a superb clinician, Neff was also was an associate professor of ophthalmology at the university.

UW connection

Under the leadership of Davis and Neff, the clinic’s ties with the University of Wisconsin continued to grow stronger. In 1925, Davis assumed leadership of the newly established Eye, Ear, Nose, Throat Division of the Department of Surgery.  Among his many contributions to ophthalmology’s academic program was the growth of hands-on, clinical study.

Under his leadership, the UW soon became a much-sought-after institution where ophthalmology students could study under the nation’s finest. His skill as a cataract surgeon grew nationally and beyond, attracting patients as far away as South America.

A third partner

Peter Duehr joined the Davis-Neff Clinic staff in 1932 after completing his residency at the State of Wisconsin General Hospital, where he had met Davis and Neff. They did everything correctly,” Duehr said of Davis and Neff. “They insisted upon excellence.”

Duehr quickly developed a reputation for clinical expertise.

Dr. Richard Dortzbach, who completed both his internship and his residency at the University of Wisconsin and at the clinic under Duehr said, “He was a simply superb physician and diagnostician. His deftness in the operating room even earned him the nickname ‘feather fingers.’” Dr. Duehr was named a partner in the clinic in 1949, and the clinic was renamed the “Davis, Neff and Duehr Clinic.”

Shortly after Duehr became a partner, Neff died of an apparent heart attack. By now, the clinic had all but given up its general ear, nose and throat practice. For the first time, the clinic was renamed to reflect its specialty; the Davis and Duehr  Eye Clinic. In the 1950s, the clinic became well-known for its work treating glaucoma and cataracts.

More staff additions

Like the two sons of Drs. Joseph and James L. Dean, Dr. Davis’ two sons, Jeff and Matthew, followed in his footsteps and also became physicians. And like the Dean boys, they, too, joined the staff of a renowned clinic founded by their father.

Dr. John Berger also joined the growing clinic in the 1950s, specializing in corneal transplants. He was the only corneal transplant surgeon in the entire region. Today, organs used in transplants are carefully transported, recorded and stored by medical facilities. In the early days of transplants, though, the process wasn’t as efficient.

Janet Berger, Dr. John Berger’s wife recalled that resulted in a few surprises around the house. “You could open our refrigerator at any given time and find eyeballs. Well, you know, they flew them in from all over the country and they had to be kept cool.” The family adjusted to the oddity, until one day when daughter Laura mistakenly brought them to school instead of her lunch.

Modern facilities and more growth

The continued growth of the clinic coupled with the explosion of new technologies during the 1950s and ‘60s led to a need for larger and more modern facilities than their cramped West Washington Avenue quarters. They purchased land at 1025 Regent Street, perfectly situated near St. Mary’s Hospital and Madison General Hospital (now Meriter Hospital), and designed a new clinic which opened in 1968.

The clinic continued to flourish and grow in subsequent decades.

With the growth of Health Management Organizations (HMO) in the 1980s and 1990s, Davis Duehr recognized that aligning with an HMO could bring a built-in patient base, allowing physicians to focus on solely practicing medicine rather than a host of other business responsibilities, too.

Joining the Dean Clinic family

After meeting with several of Madison’s multispecialty groups, Davis Duehr officially became part of the Dean Clinic in January of 1995 and was newly named “Davis Duehr Dean Eye Care.”

Davis Duehr Clinic Administrator Dan Laux explained why Dean was chosen. “They have strength and vision,” said Laux. “They’re truly a progressive clinic, the only one we spoke to that had embraced the idea of becoming an integrated health system.” The clinic continues to serve patients at 1025 Regent Street as well as many locations throughout southern Wisconsin.

A touching story

In Exceptional Vision A History of Davis Duehr Eye Associates, the publication ends with a story that captures the value of the services provided by the Davis Duehr staff.

“Many years ago, an older gentleman arrived at the clinic for treatment. Cataracts had badly clouded both eyes, and he had travelled to Madison to see if the renowned Dr. F. A. Davis could help. Cataract surgery was a major procedure in those days, with more risks and fewer guarantees that a person’s vision could be restored.

“When the gentleman’s eye patches were removed several days later, the surgery and the recovery were deemed a success. He could leave the clinic under his own volition, his sight renewed.  But instead, he paused and pulled a letter out of his vest pocket. He’d been waiting to learn its contents, he noted with a smile, until he could read it himself.

“And that’s what 80 years of patient care is all about.”

NOTE: Although it is speculative, it is likely that Dr. Dwight, Dr. Davis, and/or Dr. Neff had met or at least were aware of the work of Dr. Joseph Dean and Dr. James L. Dean, and vice versa. At a tri-state medical meeting in Madison in 1918, Dr. Dwight presented a workshop on “Trachoma & Its Relation to General Practitioners” and Dr. Joseph Dean led discussion on a different panel at the same meeting. In 1923, the Capital Times reported that Dr. James P. Dean was elected president of the Dane County Medical Society and Dr. Corydon Dwight was elected a delegate from the Dane County Medical Society to the state convention. During the 1920s, Dr. Davis taught at UW-Madison Medical School during the same years that Drs. Joseph and James Dean taught there. And in 1924, Dr. Eugene Neff, was listed as a staff physician at St. Mary’s Hospital, as were both Drs. Dean.

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