Day 4: Dr. Richard Botham: Dean Clinic’s First Staff Surgeon

Richard Botham’s affiliation with St. Mary’s Hospital spans his entire life, starting with his birth here on New Year’s Day 1926. He graduated from West High School in Madison in 1944 and then served in U.S. Navy from 1944 to 1946. He returned to Madison to attend the University of Wisconsin-Madison for undergraduate and medical school training, graduating in 1952. After his general surgery residency at the Mayo Clinic and a cardio-thoracic residency with the UW-Medical School were completed in 1959, he joined Dean Clinic as its 11th physician and the clinic’s first staff surgeon. With special expertise in vascular, thoracic and general surgery, his skills were renowned.

At St. Mary’s in the 1960s, Dr. Botham was instrumental in organizing the cardiovascular surgery program, and he recruited many of the city’s leading heart specialists. Additionally, he served as St. Mary’s chief of staff, the vice-chief of staff, and a member of the Development Council. He also took great delight in teaching residents as a clinical professor of surgery for the UW Medical School.

Dr. 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. In the early 1960s, when he and a few other Dean physicians decided to build their referral network, Dr. Botham began visiting hospitals outside of Madison, including Sauk City, Dodgeville and Fort Atkinson where Dean physicians had previously received referrals. He attended staff meetings, introduced himself and asked the physicians to send him the patients with problems that the physicians couldn’t treat themselves. He promised that if they would be kind enough to send him their patients, he’d take good care of the patients and would keep the hometown physicians informed about the status of their referred patients. This insightful strategy of “taking care of our referring base” paid major dividends, and Dean’s growth has continued to this day.

When Dr. Botham retired in 1991, he 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.”

Even in retirement, he remained active in the medical community, serving as the first physician outreach coordinator for Dean Clinic and co-chairing the $10 million campaign to build the first Madison HospiceCare Center.

His contributions to St. Mary’s Hospital, Dean Clinic, HospiceCare and the UW Medical School have left an indelible stamp on Madison’s health care scene that continues well into the 21st century.

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