When Dr. German Ortiz of Colerain reflected on his medical career, his patients are what stands out the most. To him, they were much more than patients. "Besides my patients, they were my friends," he said with a thick Spanish accent.
That makes for a lot of friends. In his 50 years working in both internal medicine and clinical cardiology, many people came through the doors of his office. "When he started in Dillonvale, he was seeing an average of 60 to 70 patients a day," his wife, Anne, explained. "After we moved to Colerain, he cut down to about 40 patients a day."
Even over the last few years of his career, he was still seeing 12 to 15 patients a day - and at that point, he was already in his 70s.
Ortiz was born and raised in Mexico City, and that's also where he attended and graduated from medical school. He wanted to be a doctor because his older brother was a doctor. He came to the US for a one year internship in Chicago and then spent one and a half years continuing the internship in Detroit. Before returning to Mexico City, he was urged by friends and colleagues to visit New York City.
The trip proved to be one of destiny. He met his future wife, Anne, his first week in the Big Apple, and three days later, the two were engaged. They married less than one year later.
Ortiz spent some time in his hometown before returning to Wheeling, where he became the chief resident for four years in internal medicine and cardiology. This was also when Ortiz received his US citizenship.
In the early 1960s, Dr. Ortiz established a practice in Dillonvale, and then moved the practice to Colerain five years later, where it still stands today. His wife worked with him, managing the office. At age 59, he suffered a heart attack and left his practice. However, 10 years later, Wheeling Clinic contacted him, as they needed him to read EKGs and see cardiac patients for another doctor who needed surgery. This temporary set up lasted a total of five more years, and Ortiz called it a career for good at age 75.
Still, after his very eventful career, Ortiz said his favorite part of being a doctor was saving lives.
"He was the type that would sit, if someone was dying . . . he'd be there all night holding the patient's hand," Anne said of her husband's bedside manner. "That's how he was. You don't have that much anymore."
"He was very, very compassionate and always had a smile on his face," she added, noting how much the patients respected him. "The nurses adored him, and he respected every nurse."
Nini Zadrozny, one of the couple's six children, explained that her dad would spend about a half an hour with a patient. "Patients would sometimes wait in the waiting room for up to two hours, but they were patient because they knew once they got in, they were going to get his total attention."
Ortiz laughed and told his wife, "You took care of me and the patients in the waiting room."
"We had the best patients," Anne said. "We had such fantastic patient relationships. There were lovely people from Piney Fork, Smithfield, Adena, Rayland, Tiltonsville, Yorkville, Colerain and St. Clairsville," she continued, naming the towns from where most of their patients came.
Patients would bring pastries, tomatoes and baskets of fruit and vegetables, and sometimes Ortiz wanted to accept that as payment. Zadrozny added with a laugh, "My mom told him, 'You can't send six kids to college with just vegetables and fruit'."
On Sept. 10, Ortiz will celebrate his 90th birthday anniversary, although his family surprised him last weekend with an early birthday celebration. He is still a member of the American Medical Association, an emeritus of the Ohio State Medical Association, and an honorary member of the Belmont County Medical Society. In addition, Ortiz involved himself for years in the annual Woodcarvers Festival where he used to carve. He also carved at the Senior Center in Colerain.
Ortiz and his wife will celebrate 59 years of marriage in January 2014. Together, they have six children: German Ortiz of Colerain; Nini Zadrozny of Wheeling; Charles Ortiz of Grafton; Richard Ortiz of Kentucky; Michael Ortiz of Morgantown; and Rose Marie Jarvie of St. Clairsville. They have 10 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
When asked what he'd like to say to all of his patients, Ortiz remained quite humble and selfless. "I'm sorry I can't take care of them anymore."