Edward Dodge, MD

Edward Dodge, MD

Lifetime Achievement in Healthcare Award

Dr. Ed Dodge wanted to be a doctor from the time he was 12 years old – but there was one problem. The son of missionaries, Dodge grew up in Angola, Africa, and admired the physician who worked with the missionary group. He thought, “I could do that sort of thing.”

Then he realized he got faint at the sight of blood.

“So, I thought, ‘I guess I can’t do that sort of thing,’” he said.

Back in the U.S., Dodge majored in biology in college, with the thought of becoming a teacher. But in his junior year, he decided his reaction to blood was a problem he should be able to overcome. He switched to pre-med, and then was accepted to the Indiana University School of Medicine. He still had his problem to solve, which came to a dramatic conclusion.

“I was invited by an upper classman to observe surgery with him. It’s rare for a first-year student to do that, but he got the clearance,” he said. “It was a major orthopedic surgery, on the hip or upper leg. The surgeon was sawing with a bone saw and there was blood and bone flying everywhere.

“I fainted dead away! They dragged me out. The funny thing about it is I never felt faint at the sight of blood again. I guess I went through the worst and got cured.”

Dodge earned his medical degree in 1962, and a Master of Public Health degree at Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health in 1967. He became an Assistant Professor at the Public Health College in Gondar, Ethiopia, for two years. While in Ethiopia, he volunteered at a clinic where he treated patients with leprosy, typhus, smallpox and tuberculosis. At the time, there were 22 doctors in a nation with a population of 19 million people.

Dodge, his wife Nancy, and their three children moved to Citrus County in 1969, where he was named director of the county Health Department. At that time, the county had a population of about 9,000.

The family was familiar with the county. Nancy Dodge’s parents had bought land on a lake in Inverness in the 1940s. They built their family home on the property.

“We loved Citrus County,” Dodge said. “It was very rural, almost tropical jungle-like.”

After a few years with the health department, Dodge was recruited by Dr. Randall Jenkins to join his family medicine practice. He would be a family practice physician for the next 20 years. He was an integral part of the evolution of medicine in the county.

“We were on the medical staff at Citrus Memorial Hospital (CMH),” he said. “Those first few years, we had five family physicians, one general surgeon, and one OB/Gyn. The family physicians were on call in the ER every fifth night – we had to spend the night at the hospital. There was no ER specialty then.”

Over time, as the community grew, more specialists established practices.

“Towards end of my career, the hospitalist specialty developed,” he said. “Today, family practice mostly does office work. It makes home life much better for family physician.”

Dodge also served as Courtesy Clinical Associate Professor in the Department of Community Health and Family Medicine at the University of Florida. In 1990, he was appointed to the Board of Directors for the Citrus Memorial Health Foundation, a not-for-profit organization created to operate CMH. When CMH established the Citrus Primary Care Group in 1994, Dodge served as its first medical director, and as faculty member and preceptor for a family practice residency program with the University of Florida.

It was during his post-medical school internship at Los Angeles County Hospital that Dodge developed his interest in vegetarianism.

“It was a major teaching hospital for students from several medical schools, including Loma Linda University, which was a Seventh-Day Adventist school. The hospital cafeteria had two food lines – one was vegetarian for the Loma Linda students. When the other line was long, I’d go through the vegetarian line. It was good food. I became more and more interested in vegetarianism,” he said.

A few years later, Ed and Nancy Dodge stopped eating red meat and then, chicken. Dodge has been a pescatarian (someone who doesn’t eat meat but does eat fish) ever since.

“I was known as the health nut doctor when I was in Citrus County,” he said. “It took time, but medicine has finally started seeing the value of nutrition in managing health conditions.”

A skilled writer and public speaker, Dodge shared his love of healthy living and healthy eating with Citrus County. He was a frequent presenter at the CMH SHARE Club’s health education programs. In fact, he formed his own group, “Veggie Lovers,” for SHARE Club members in the 1990s. Dodge and club members met monthly to discuss healthy eating, share recipes and encourage each other to healthier lifestyles.

He was the first physician in Citrus County to write a regular column for the Citrus County Chronicle. He continued writing his column, “Passion for Health,” long after he retired from practicing medicine in 1996.

Dodge has never stopped his commitment to Africa – something that was instilled in his early years. His late father, Ralph Edward Dodge, served as a missionary in Angola from 1937 until his election as a bishop in 1956. He was the only American Methodist missionary ever elected bishop by the African Methodist Church. He served as bishop for eight years in an area covering Angola, Mozambique, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo). A strong supporter of human rights for Africans, Bishop Dodge was expelled from Rhodesia by the white supremacist government in 1964. He was re-elected in exile and served another four years before retiring.

After his retirement, Dr. Ed Dodge made numerous mission trips to Zimbabwe. In 2010, he was appointed as a volunteer visiting adjunct professor at Africa University in Zimbabwe, teaching in the Master of Public Health program for one semester each year.

Ed and Nancy Dodge had three children, two sons and a daughter. All were raised in Citrus County. After Nancy’s death, he remarried. He and his wife, Carol, live in San Antonio, TX. He has ten grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. One granddaughter graduated from the University of Indiana Medical School 51 years after her grandfather. She is a hospitalist in Indiana.

“I always tried to take competent care of my patients,” Dodge said of his Lifetime Achievement award. “I was proud of the care I delivered. I wasn’t perfect, but I did as good a job as I could.”

Healthcare Heroes 2019