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From "Wichita's Best" Magazine

Winter 1994
Cover Photo and Story about
Dr. Joseph P. Galichia, M. D., F.A.C.C.

"Heart to Heart" by Galen McPherson

As I stood in front of the somewhat imposing home of one of Wichita's leading cardiologists, I couldn't help but wonder what was in store for the evening. I had managed to secure two hours of time from a world-famous heart specialist, head of a medical group of over 285 employees, serving the entire State of Kansas. A native Kansan, he is the President of the American Society of Cardiovascular Interventionists, no small recognition in its own right.

He often lectures internationally on advances in the field of cardiac care. He owns several business interests apart from his medical practice. And I was supposed to find out something unique, personal and interesting.

As a highly visible local personality, he is subject to more observation, speculation, gossip and curiosity than you or I might imagine, as are all "celebrities". Yet the man I met that night was a gracious host of absolutely modest manner and soft-spoken behavior. He resisted comparisons and quantification, preferring to deal in concepts and contributions. Occasionally, he seemed almost embarrassed by accomplishments credited to him.

He spoke with words like magical, enchanting, mystic, intuitive and happy, as easily as the medical jargon into which we occasionally lapsed. But at the end of the evening, I found I had met an undeniably personable man, with great charm and dedication, focused on service and education, content with himself and his life.

We started the interview with a chance for him to make observations about himself and his changes. I was reminded of a quotation I have often applied to my life: The evening has its stars that noontime never knows.

He related a story that when he started in his practice, if a patient arrived that did not need his particular specialty, interventional cardiology, he would send them to someone else. As he said, "I see my role as having changed over the past several years. I think more broadly than I ever have about the person's overall health. It's not much trouble for me, even though I am an interventional cardiologist, to check out some other things, to just talk to the person a bit. I don't want to let them down."

That commitment to the global patient, not just to satisfying his own specialty need, is a hallmark of many aspects of the Galichia Medical Group's operations and philosophies.

His personal tone and his maturity and servitude were reflected in the quiet surroundings of his personal study (we saw the official study later). Surrounded by butter-yellow pine panels, understated displays of Oriental art, and embraced by the soft music of Kenny G, it was easy to see why this was a favorite retreat of the doctor. It was a warm yet private room, as he was a warm yet private person. This integrity of man and surroundings was not surprising as we continued the interview.

We talked about his plans for the growth of his practice, and he will concentrate in three areas: first, he will stay in the field of cardiology, which is the field of his interest; second, he will continue to emphasize the research his practice conducts (often under the Wichita Institute for Clinical Research), and third, he will continue to recruit a world-class staff.

But as he mentioned these, the sense of mysticism and excitement that had been present earlier faded. Until we touched on his idea for an institute dedicated to the wellness and health maintenance of the client. And the sparkle returned, and he sat more upright.

"I see an institute that concentrates on the study of men's health issues, and of women's health issues, and of lipid (fat-related) abnormalities. I see a continuum of care from early childhood through to the care of the elderly. I see increasing the sophistication of the Racquet Club."

Clearly we had hit on something intense within him. So we talked about the new concept, some of it being executed, some of it in development, some of it still a dream. But what a dream!

Through expanded nursery facilities and programs at the Racquet Club, he aims to introduce the concept of lifetime sports involvement at a very early age. By focusing on sport activities that people can perform for their entire life, he plans to help with an entire generation of fitness minded people.

He wants to add cardiac rehabilitation to the programs offered at the

Racquet Club in order to make the transition from post-operative care to lifelong regimens of exercise more natural.

He wants to add programs for the elderly, with special advice and special hours and special rates for their special needs.

Add in the focused fields of men's, women's and lipid studies, toss in personal trainer programs for a dash of seasoning, and you truly do have a childhood to seniority prevention and maintenance center.

The idea for these services has come from an intense program which, if not unique, is rare in the medical industry. He is very proud of the "market based health care practices" he has undertaken, with the advice of his non-medical friends and business associates, such as Charles Koch, Dr. Edwards Deming, the Marriott brothers and others "too numerous to mention."

He has an evaluation system in place that would be the envy of many factories, but in an industry that can be difficult to quantify. This penchant for service and this fanaticism for satisfaction are evident in the way he runs his business.

"We have always believed in the fine hotel atmosphere. We try to do little special things to make it better than the average place. We work very hard in all our facilities, to have a little bit better wood, a little bit better chair, a concierge to make sure you feel comfortable. We know people need to make phone calls and would like to have coffee, so we try to do our best."

He reminded me that "you can have someone come in, clinically dead, resuscitate them, go in with a balloon, dilate their artery, give them a clotbursting drug, get them out of coronary care in two days and home in four with no heart damage, and they can be upset because someone was late to see them, or the person discharging them did not have a smile on their face."

So he watches the details. He has a director of Quality Improvement. He believes in continuous improvement, both clinically, on the service side of his business. and in the personal aspects of his employees.

And he backs up his beliefs with actions.

He tells the story of a woman patient who said, "I was in one of your hospitals, and I thought the nurses were great and the doctors were wonderful, but the place was dirty.," Rather than ignore it, he dictated a letter on the spot to the CEO of the hospital, asking the woman to back him up when the CEO called her to follow up. He told me, "I think a much better way to handle it than to say, 'I'm not sure you're right. These hospitals all are clean.’ I wouldn't be doing anyone any favors, not the patient, not the hospital.”

He lives out his commitment to his patients by providing his home phone number to every single patient that goes into the hospital. He has done this "since Day One. From the very moment I began. I felt that, if I was really going to do a good job taking care of people, they would have to have access to me. And I tried to treat them as I would like to be treated."

He has even called patients from conferences in South America to honor his commitment, because it is so important to him.

But there has to be a private side to this man, and I worked to find out what it might be. "How do you find time to be alone?"

"The one way I have to get away from it all is to drive. I love my cars. I have some great cars that I just love to drive. Almost every Sunday, I'll just drive one of my cars around for a while. I also love to drive around to the clinics (did I mention he has satellite clinics throughout the state?) and to the farms we own near Parsons. But I rarely spend time alone."

Although I almost felt I was violating a personal inner sanctum, I just had to ask him questions about his children and family life. What aspirations does he have for his children? A surprisingly simple, and yet intricately complex response, which captures the sincerity and truth of this man I had only known for two hours.

"That they be happy and they feel as fulfilled with their job and their career as I feel. I would be happy if they would feel as good someday about what they are doing as I feel about what I am doing. If they can love their work and feel the same enjoyment that I feel."

"Stephanie is working with us now in marketing, and Paul is sort of a 'man for all seasons'. Christine has Down's Syndrome, and she helps out at the practice occasionally and has a great time. I know that at some level she will be able to make a contribution-she does it as a person already by just adding a lot of joy to people's lives." I wanted him to be my dad.

And what contribution would he like attached to the name Joseph Galichia? His first response recaptured the spirit of modesty I uncovered at the start of the interview. "Gosh. I never thought about it. I guess it would have to be something medical."

We talked about his new business opportunities which he was looking into: esoteric fields befitting a man of his curiosity and intellect, as well as advances in his chosen love, cardiology.

No matter if it is advancing the treatment of patients, or helping people to not have to be his patients (at least on the interventional level) or if it is a completely unrelated field (did he really say "virtual reality theme park"?), his energy and enthusiasm are evident.

His sense of his own mortality and fallibility are evident in all his discussions. As we talked about some of the .'wilder" ideas, he cautioned me, "I'm not sure if I want you to write about this, because people think I'm crazy enough already."

Regardless of what he chooses to establish as his preferred signature to the world of medicine and of mankind as a whole, I have no doubts that this sincerely open and modest man will prevail.

With the microphone off, and departing pleasantries being exchanged, he shared with me what I thought was one of the most insightful comments of the evening. As we were in his foyer, he showed me the magnificent wrought iron banister that leads up the stairs and overhead, then back down. He told me the story of the German gentleman that had crafted the railing at the age of eighty-seven, and had won an international award for its design. He intimated to me, "That is what I would like to be able to do. To have a passion and a skill so deep, that at that age, I am still energetic in my work." When I offered to him, "Well, there you have a role model," he acknowledged, "Yes. A role model."

I will not soon forget the evening, and I will not soon forget the lessons of life I had been shown. Success in life is not necessarily in the counting and the demarcation of accomplishments, as it is in the process of treating people with respect; of being inventive, creative and energetic; of serving rather than demanding to be served.

In all the ways we each make an impact on the lives of others, often we make impacts we are not aware of. Thank you, Dr. Galichia, for this impact you have made on me.

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Wichita, KS 67220

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