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Omaha Magazine

The Dedicated Dr. Dunn

Aug 22, 2023 02:51PM ● By Lizzy Diamond
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After an eighth grade course on the physiology of the eye sparked his interest, a teenage Michael Dunn was inspired to pursue a career as a physician. Seven decades later, Dr. Dunn continues to practice medicine. The 84-year-old spent years as an internal medicine physician, enjoyed a single year of retirement in the early 2000s, and now works in clinical patient studies. 

Two years after his first glimpse into the medical field, Dunn read a book about becoming a doctor during his sophomore year of high school. From there, his future was set. After graduating high school in the late 1950s, he enrolled at Creighton University, where his father had been a pharmacy student 30 years prior. His next step: medical school.

“I was able to get into med school after three years,” Dunn said. “They don’t let you do that anymore. If you read, you’re good enough to pass the MCAT test adequately, they’ll let you in.”  

The next four years consisted of basic sciences, hospital rounds, and copious of reading for the soon-to-be Dr. Dunn. Medical school was followed by a year-long internship with rotations in internal medicine, obstetrics, pediatrics, and the emergency room. That internal medicine rotation led Dunn to do a three-year residency in the field before going into practice as an internal medicine physician. 

While in school, Dunn met fellow medical student Dr. Dave Jasper. The two ended up working at the same practice, often seeing each other’s patients when the other was unavailable. Jasper always felt confident leaving his patients with Dunn; he often observed Dunn spending extra time with them, looking at them from a different angle and a fresh set of eyes that might catch something new. 

“He’s an excellent physician,” Jasper stated. “And he’s a thorough physician. He’s honest and all business-like. He’s very, very dedicated to the profession of medicine.”

That dedication has never diminished. Shortly after his retirement in the early 2000s, Dunn got back into the medical field after a friend called about a job at Quality Clinical Research. The Omaha organization conducts patient studies for a variety of products such as vaccinations, baby formula, and migraine relief. Participants will come in for visits with physicians, like Dunn, during their trial. 

“The patients are very nice. They’re usually not ill, and they enjoy coming in. The girls in the office are real professionals, [and] are courteous in taking care of patients.” 

Dunn has taken up the post of medical director with Quality Clinical Research and states that it is one of the best jobs that he’s ever had. 

With his continuing medical practice, Dunn has also been continuing his education beyond medical school. 

“Even from when I was a student until I retired, I went to what’s called Harrison Club,” he said. “Harrison was the textbook of internal medicine. And my major mentor, Dan Egan, M.D. who was a kidney specialist—we met Friday night from 5 to 7, Saturday from noon to 2pm, and Sunday from noon to 2pm to read Harrison.”

“I did not go other than a short time,” Jasper recalled of his own Harrison Club experience. “But Mike went every week. That’s dedication.” 

Dedicated is certainly one of the best words to describe Dunn. Along with Harrison Club, Dunn also participated in a weekly journal club where he read three medical journals a week: The New England Journal of Medicine, The American Journal of Medicine, and the Annals of Internal Medicine. 

In his decades-long career, Dunn has observed changes in medical practice. One big change is corporate presence in medicine. 

“Companies are taking over the physicians in groups. I wasn’t involved in that as a private practice, fortunately, when I retired. But at that time when I retired [in 2004], a lot of people were getting bought out by hospitals,” he explained. “So the prime, priority physician is not on his own anymore. 

“When I was an internal medicine physician and had patients in the hospital, I’d follow patients in the hospital. Now they have what they call hospitalists,” Dunn continued. 

This lack of personalization in hospital care is what Dunn dislikes the most about today’s medical practice. 

“They have hospitalists every 12 hours, so they know nothing about me and ask me questions,” he noted, mournfully. 

Jasper shares this opinion, which is why he had Dunn perform a pre-surgery physical on him earlier this year. 

“The person that I needed to see for a physical pre-op wasn’t available, so Dr. Dunn did the physical. I mean, he did a physical just like he would anybody else,” he said. “He checked everything. He didn’t have to do be that thorough, but he’s always thorough. He feels that if you break the routine or the moment, you start missing things—and he’s right.”

As for medical students, newly minted physicians, and even older doctors that may have grown disillusioned with modern practices, Dunn offered the following advice:

“Be honest with people; be thorough, be prepared, and be up to date on everything. It’s hard to see, but there’s so much going on.” 

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This article originally appeared in the September 2023 issue of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.  

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