Whitehall pediatrician Andrew Gursky retires after 62 years of practice

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Andrew Gursky must have inherited his father’s work ethic.

The son of Slovak immigrants, Dr. Gursky, who grew up on the South Side, remembers his father working in his shoe repair shop on South 14th Street until the age of 94, about six months before he died.

Dr. Gursky, 88, has decided to close the doors on his Whitehall medical practice on May 31 after 62 years of treating what he estimates is "thousands of patients’’ as well as doing house calls.

"Although my family has encouraged me to retire for a number of years, I waited until now,’’ he said.

Dr. Gursky, who said he has no health problems, said he intends to take retirement one day at a time and stay active by attending cultural events — such as the theater and opera — and weekly lectures at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC. He also plans to stay in touch with his colleagues, who are trained in diverse disciplines such as mathematics, philosophy and religion.

He also plans to travel a bit to visit family.

Even before graduating from the University of Pittsburgh Medical School in 1949, Dr. Gursky said he could see the great amount of effort being made at the time to improve the health of youngsters. As a junior intern at the South Side Hospital, he said he was exposed to the practice of two pediatricians and was impressed with "their ability to influence the lives of young people."

These experiences prompted him to choose a career in pediatrics.

Now living in Mt. Lebanon, Dr. Gursky first opened an office in Brentwood on July 1 , 1952, but volunteered for the U.S. Air Force a year later and was stationed in Japan during the Korean War. After his discharge in 1955, he went back into practice in his Brentwood office, where he remained until 1986, when he moved the office a mile away to its current site in Whitehall.

"I needed more space, an office with an elevator and a bigger parking lot," he said of the move.

Over his 62 years of practice, he said he’s seen a lot of changes in the practice of medicine, mainly advances in technology and laboratory testing. He added that diseases such as rheumatic fever and poliomyelitis have largely been controlled.

"In the early days, we had to rely on information gotten from the child’s caretakers and direct observation, as well as some lab tests to come up with a diagnosis," he said. "Often, patients had to travel to go for X-rays or lab tests and didn’t have the means to get there. As a result, they were often hospitalized for things we can treat today as outpatients."

Dr. Gursky said house calls were common in the early days of his practice, and he used to make them on a daily basis. However, as more and more people acquired automobiles and a means of transportation, the need for house calls faded. Even so, he continued to make house calls until as recently as three years ago.

When he announced his retirement, he said he got a "big spectrum of responses" from his patients that included everything from anger that he was leaving to good wishes in his future life. He said he received numerous cards and letters..

"It’s been rather traumatic for me to have to sever these relationships," he said.

Peggy Wallace of Mt. Lebanon has been taking her four children to Dr. Gursky starting with her first child, Meghan, now 27.

"From the very beginning, I was impressed with how professional and knowledgeable he is," Mrs. Wallace said. "He’s also very kind, caring and nurturing. He always treated my children with such dignity. I consider him a treasure, and my family is really going to miss him."

Dr. Gursky has been married to his wife Dolores for 57 years. He has five children and eight grandchildren.

"When I reflect back on my life as a youngster growing up on Pittsburgh’s South Side who didn’t even speak English for the first few years of my life, I realize that, if you put your mind to work and have the ability to educate yourself, you can become successful and achieve great things," he said. "Now on the cusp of retirement, I have a sense of self-satisfaction knowing I contributed to the lives and well-being of others."

Dave Zuchowski, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.

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