- By Vincent Akimoto
Dr. James Stadler, a man of Guam
Dr James Stadler died suddenly last month and his island home now mourns the loss of an important doctor, the passing of a great man.
Beloved by patients, respected by peers, he now is iconic, representing a standard of kindness and compassion that physicians forever shall look to emulate.
Jim Stadler grew up in Mount Clemens, north of Detroit. He went to Catholic school at St. Mary before going to college at Michigan State University. He graduated with Honors from the prestigious University of Michigan Medical School and completed pediatric internship at Children's Hospital of Los Angeles before being recruited to work on Guam.
In 1977, Dr. Stadler began his useful, productive career of 40 years in Tamuning at the FHP clinic specializing in Pediatrics, the branch of medicine dedicated to the health of all children.
Newborn baby care. Circumcisions. Immunizations. Well Child checks.
School sports physicals.
Talking about birds, bees, and STDs with embarrassed adolescents.
Diagnosing pregnancies in teenagers and counseling families on how to hold everything together.
Managing childhood cancers.
Dealing with the familial after effects of teen suicide.
He was steadfast, dedicated, dependable, and persevering, Jim Stadler loved Guam and he lived his greatest years as a healer of children on this island. He helped mend broken bones. He saved many lives. He cried when some didn’t make it. He prayed.
He raised his children here. He convinced his amazing wife Virgie to build their home and make their babies here. He chose Guam and the families of Guam in turn trusted their children to his care. Over the years, his little pediatric patients grew up to be great men and women, turning still to him when their own babies were born.
He was faithful, enduring, and typhoon-tested, Jim Stadler lived through Pamela, Paka, and Pongsonwa. He lived through great earthquakes, the Heroin epidemic, and the War on Drugs. He chose Guam and Guam changed for the better with him.
Level-headed, constant, and fair, Jim Stadler was recognized as an effective leader by the doctors of Guam. He was chosen to be Chairman of the Department of Pediatrics at the Guam Memorial Hospital many times over the course of his career. He personally helped implement many important technical and administrative innovations that resulted in improved pediatric morbidity and mortality for Guam. He helped to foster an ethos of cooperativity and accountability in the GMH Pediatrics Department that has always been admired by our medical community.
He was elected President of the Guam Medical Society when he was barely 30 years old. He was a founding member of the Guam Medical Association. As an advocate for better healthcare for Guam, Dr. Stadler spearheaded local tort reform to create equitable and efficient malpractice claims resolution that did not compromise an already fragile island medical system. Along with the venerable Dr. Chris Perez, Dr. Stadler led the passage of landmark local legislation mandating binding arbitration for all medical malpractice claims. Today, as this law is now being questioned, I propose that the law be named in his honor and that it be upheld and continuously be improved.
In 2005, Dr. Stadler was named Medical Director of a beleaguered and embattled Guam Memorial Hospital.The nursing staff was fighting with the procurement staff because the hospital was always running out of supplies. The procurement staff was fighting with hospital administration because angry vendors were unpaid. The medical staff was fighting with each other. GMH patients and the general community were scared and rightly so.
Dr. Stadler focused on Joint Commission accreditation and solving patient safety issues. He got things done that too many local physicians said could never be done on Guam. He believed in the talent of our island's home-grown people more than some of our so-called political leaders who were often too busy getting their own medical care off-island.
Unlike certain politicians, Dr. Stadler was manifestly involved with creating solutions at Guam's only public hospital and he took personal responsibility to ensure safe, competent patient care. As hospital medical director, he led by walking around. If something important needed to be done at GMH, he was there.
Along with Lt. Governor Mike Cruz and Dr. Ricardo Eusebio, he was instrumental in getting everyone to work together. Fire alarm systems were fixed, infectious disease threats were mitigated, medication compliance issues were addressed. In 2010, after nearly 30 years of failure, the Guam Memorial Hospital regained national accreditation signifying that Guam's only public hospital met or exceeded the American standard for an acute care facility.
Dr. Stadler later publically reflected that GMH became a better hospital because the national accreditation process set a higher standard for patient care. As in his own life, where the journey and those he met along the way were as important as the destination, Dr. Stadler expressed optimism that GMH would always strive to meet the highest standard of patient care for the people of Guam, especially the little children.
“I think what finally got us going the extra mile was when we were attempting to achieve Joint Commission Accreditation,” said Dr. Stadler. “I hope we will keep it."
I thank Mrs. Virgie Stadler for asking me to eulogize Jim and I have emptied the thesaurus with words like tears trying to capture the essence of this great teacher of how to be a good human being. I don’t know all but I know this: Jim loved you. He loved his family. He loved Guam.
As we tearfully bid him farewell, I believe with all my heart, all my mind, and all my soul that His lord will say unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
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Dr. Vince Akimoto practices Family Medicine at the American Medical Clinic. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org