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Published: Monday, 4/26/2010

Doctor sped through med school in WWII

BY JIM SIELICKI
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Dr. John "Jack" Tansey, a pediatrician who was fast-tracked into medical school during World War II and returned to college five decades later to get his undergraduate degree, died Saturday at Sunset House.

He was 89. Dr. Tansey had been in declining health in recent years, his family said Sunday.

Dr. Tansey, born Aug. 24, 1920, was a graduate of Libbey High School and attended the University of Toledo before his family moved to Ann Arbor, where he continued his undergraduate and medical studies at the University of Michigan.

His wife, Margaret Tansey, said her husband entered medical school before he completed his undergraduate courses because of the urgent need for doctors during the war. During the war years, medical students went to school year-round in an accelerated training program, she said.

He joined the Navy as a medical officer and served aboard the USS Bolivar, an attack transport that would become a hospital ship after discharging its troops to shore.

"He had a terrible job," she said. "He didn't want to talk about it."

The job he wouldn't talk about was being assigned to go ashore to check bodies of fallen soldiers to determine whom could be saved, she said.

"He felt just terrible about it. He'd just graduated from medical school," she said.

The two married in 1950 while he was still in the military.

Dr. Tansey returned to Toledo after the war, trained in pediatrics at Children's Hospital of Detroit, and taught for three years at Wayne State University, his son, Scott Tansey, said.

He was called back into service during the Korean War. He was stationed at Moffett Field Air Station in Sunnyvale, Calif., as a flight surgeon during his second tour of duty.

The job was an easy one, she said, but he didn't enjoy the pleasant surroundings because he was never certain if he would be shipped overseas.

While attending the University of Michigan, his professor of public health was Dr. Jonas Salk, inventor of the polio vaccine, Scott Tansey said.

As a pediatrician, Dr. Tansey saw what polio could do to young bodies, and until the Salk vaccine was developed in 1955, treatment options were few, Scott Tansey said.

"Before the vaccine, a lot of people wouldn't treat [polio victims] because they were afraid," he said.

In 1954, Dr. Tansey joined a medical practice in Toledo and became an attending physician at Toledo Hospital. He also served at St. Vincent, St. Charles, and Mercy hospitals, now part of the Mercy hospital system.

He was chief of pediatrics at Mercy Hospital from 1955 to 1981 and its chief of staff from 1967 to 1969.

In a 1964 interview with The Blade describing the work of a pediatrician, Dr. Tansey said, "Children's cries aren't as grating as adults' complaints."

"We [adults] take our blows harder; a person feels cheated when a child contracts a fatal illness," he had said.

The hours could be grueling, particularly when covering the pediatrics ward at the former Maumee Valley Hospital, leaving little time for outside community boards, he had said.

Dr. Tansey was on the teaching staff of the Medical College of Ohio, now the University of Toledo Medical Center.

Dr. Tansey, along with doctors Raymond Buganski, Richard Roberts, and Kiron Torsekar, had established one of the area's largest pediatrics practices, Mrs. Tansey said.

Dr. Tansey enjoyed raising orchids in a greenhouse attached to his Ottawa Hills home, and he took up the piano and the organ later in life.

When his son Scott Tansey began attending St. John's Jesuit High School in 1968, shortly after the school opened, he volunteered to help coach the tennis team, Mrs. Tansey said.

In the early 1990s, he returned to the University of Michigan to complete his undergraduate studies and earned a bachelor of arts degree, his wife said.

"His patients said they were glad they didn't know at the time that he hadn't graduated until later," Mrs. Tansey joked.

Dr. Tansey is survived by his wife, Margaret Tansey; daughters, JoAnn Angarola and Barbara Nicholls; son, Scott Tansey, and seven grandchildren.

Visitation will be from 4 to 8 p.m. tomorrow at Walker Funeral Home, 5155 West Sylvania Ave., and a funeral Mass will be held at 10 a.m. Wednesday at Gesu Catholic Church.

The family suggests memorials to Ashanti Hospice of Ottawa Hills or the Toledo Area Humane Society.

Contact Jim Sielicki at:

jsielicki@theblade.com

or 419-724-6078.



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