Thursday, November 6, 2008
Orange County pacemaker pioneer, Ovando, dies
Physician implanted the first heart-saving device in O.C. in 1964.
By BARBARA GIASONE
THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
FULLERTON Dr. Paul Ovando, a pioneering thoracic-cardiovascular surgeon who implanted the first pacemaker in Orange County in 1964 and created the Asthma Olympics, died at his home Tuesday. He was 85.
Services are set for 10:30 a.m. Monday at St. Juliana Falconieri Catholic Church, 1320 N. Acacia Ave., in Fullerton.
Ovando started his practice and work with St. Jude Hospital in 1959 when he and his wife, Charlotte, moved to Fullerton. He discovered the hospital did not have an intensive care unit needed for post-operative thoracic patients. Recovering patients had to hire nurses from a registry to take care of them after surgery.
The young doctor paid for the nurses if his patients couldn't afford the service.
He also purchased cardiac pacemakers for patients in the early 1960s before insurance companies started covering the new technology. At the time, only 200 people in the nation had the heart-saving devices.
Later, Ovando helped open the hospital's intensive care unit and donated his time to train the unit's nurses.
He established the hospital's respiratory care unit in 1968, and paid for patients' ventilators.
He borrowed $100,000 in 1972 to buy needed equipment to launch St. Jude's open heart program.
In 1986, Ovando introduced laser surgery to the medical center.
For his pioneering work with pacemakers, Ovando received St. Jude's first Distinguished Physician Award in 1995.
"He was one of the few physicians who still made house calls in the 1990s, and if his patients couldn't pay him, he would tell them that a cup of coffee and doughnut was payment in full," his son-in-law, Thomas Clanin, said.
The Ovandos led an active social life – and taught classes at St. Juliana School where their two daughters attended.
While serving on the Lung Association Board, Paul Ovando created the Asthma Olympics in North Orange County for children with bronchial problems. He also trained firefighters to work with the children through the association's Open Airways program.
He retired from practice in 2000. Charlotte Ovando died last year.
In addition to his daughters, Michele Hamilton and Lynn Clanin, he is survived by four grandchildren.
Donations in Ovando's memory may be made in his name to St. Jude Medical Center Memorial Fund/Asthma Education, 101 E. Valencia Mesa Drive, Fullerton, CA. 92835.
One tribute among hundreds to Dr. Ovando:
c/o COPD International.com
March 4, 1999
Paul J. Ovando, M.D.
301 W. Bastanchury Rd. #110
Fullerton, CA 92835
RE: "All-Star Doctor" Designation
Dear Dr. Ovando:
I am volunteer coordinator and web master for a group of patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease who correspond regularly on the Internet, from across the United States, Canada, and many other countries around the world.
Though the specifics of our diseases vary, we share the extraordinarily similar experience of our often-lengthy searches for a doctor whose skills in applying the science of medicine are matched by his mastery of the art of ministering to the emotional and psychological needs of his patients. We unanimously applaud those exceptional doctors who work with their patients and encourage them to gain the knowledge and find the strength to more successfully manage their diseases and enjoy a higher quality of life. We especially endorse an aggressive course of treatment that includes a multi disciplinary pulmonary rehabilitation (or "wellness) program.
It is a pleasure to advise that, upon my personal recommendation, as one of your patients, we have bestowed upon you the designation, "All-Star Doctor," and included your name in the "SOB Hall of Fame," our humble web site directory of doctors who we believe deserve very special recognition. We hope you will accept this "award" as a gesture of genuine respect and gratitude for the service you so generously render.
A list of our membership is available at our web site address, below.
With warmest regards,
Bill Horden, Coordinating Volunteer