Three physicians will be honored for their outstanding service to the community during the Scioto County Medical Society Annual Installation Dinner and Awards Ceremony at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 27 at the SOMC Friends Community Center, 1202 18th St.
Ramon O. Malaya, M.D., will receive the Outstanding Physician Award. The late Jack MacDonald, M.D. will be honored with the Lifetime Recognition Award. Hong Kang, M.D., will receive his 50-year pin.
Dr. Malaya and his wife, Soledad, came to the Portsmouth area in 1973 at the urging of the late Lowell Thompson, administrator of the former Scioto Memorial Hospital.
The Malayas had come to the United States following the political upheaval of the Marcos government in the Philippines in the 1960s. The youngest of 10 children, Ramon was expected to become either a doctor or a lawyer.
“My father was a supervisor in education and he firmly believed that education was the way to go,” he said. All of his siblings practice either medicine or law. Ramon attended the School of Medicine and Surgery at the University of Santo Tomas, Manila, graduating in 1964.
The young couple was living in New York City where Dr. Malaya was completing a residency in internal medicine at St. Vincent’s Hospital when Thompson approached him to come to Portsmouth.
The Malayas had promised their families they would come back to their homeland. They travel each year for a visit, but the U.S.A. has become their home. A specialist in internal medicine, Dr. Malaya came as a salaried Emergency Room physician.
The environment in rural southern Ohio was a sharp contrast to living in New York City. “The first time I was here, I couldn’t sleep. It was too quiet,” he recalls.
“I had only planned to stay for two years working in the Emergency Department,” Dr. Malaya explains, “but after about three months Dr. Sol Asch, Lowell (Thompson) and (Mercy Hospital Administrator) Jim Donaldson made me an offer I couldn’t refuse to stay permanently and take over Dr. Asch’s practice.”
Striking out on his own with an independent practice was not what Dr. Malaya had planned. “I trained in internal medicine, not business,” he says.
Soledad recalls it was an anxious time. “We were very scared. We had many sleepless nights, because we didn’t know how the community would be, if they
would accept us. However, it’s been almost 37 years and we still have not moved back,” she says.
“At the time we were so unsure, because we were just two of only a few people from foreign countries living here. But the people have been so kind, so caring and welcoming over the years, it has just been so wonderful.”
They realized how much their presence had meant to so many people in 1999 when a mild stroke left Dr. Malaya hospitalized out of town. All the way from Portsmouth his room was flooded with cards and notes (nearly a thousand) and so many flower arrangements it began to look like a funeral parlor.
During a career spanning nearly 40 years, Dr. Malaya has seen and been a moving force for the arrival of new technologies. “When I came here, no one conducted echocardiography. I asked Dr. Asch if the hospital could buy the machine so I could do the tests. Dr. Sheets, Dr. Asch and Dr. Counts and I started non-invasive cardiographic and vascular testing. We did this at Mercy Hospital, then Lowell Thompson learned about it and we began doing it at Scioto Memorial Hospital too.”
Later Dr. Malaya was one of the first users of colonoscopy equipment and procedures, and was instrumental in teaching other physicians how to conduct the tests. He also co-authored an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) and was featured in the Chicago Tribune and other national publications for his work studying arrhythmia in heart attack patients.
The Malayas have a son, Ramon, Jr., a surgeon in practice at the Cleveland Clinic who uses laparascopic and robotic technology. They also have two grandchildren. Dr. Malaya retired in 2004.
The late Jack MacDonald, M.D., a local pediatrician, will also be honored at the medical society event. After growing up in the Portsmouth area and graduating from Portsmouth High School in 1942, he enlisted in the Navy in World War II. His wife, Barbara, recalls that he took tests for Reserve Officer Training Corps in Maine and was eventually admitted to Harvard University.
“At first they turned him down because of stuttering, but he went back and they did accept him, and he completed his undergraduate studies at Harvard,” she says. “He also played football at Harvard, along with Robert Kennedy.”
Following graduation from Harvard, he attended medical school in Albany, N.Y., where he met the future Mrs. MacDonald, a young nursing student.
“I was a pediatric nurse,” the Connecticut native explains. “Our hospital sent a large number of personnel to Europe in the war effort and I became head nurse of a wing of Pediatrics at Albany Hospital.”
The two were married in 1948 and after Jack’s graduation in 1950, they moved to Indiana University Medical Center where he completed his internship. They returned to the Buckeye state where Dr. MacDonald served a three-year residency, the last year as chief resident, at Columbus Children’s Hospital.
Ultimately, the MacDonalds returned to Jack’s hometown of Portsmouth in 1954.
“I think the poor kid from Portsmouth had something to prove,” Barbara says of the decision, noting that it was a very special time in American history and Jack, like many others, was able to get a good education on the G.I.
Bill and do things he would never have dreamed possible otherwise.
Dr. MacDonald opened a pediatric practice on Offnere Street, switching off with general practitioner Dr. Herb Bertram in the office space, and was the first board-certified pediatrician in Portsmouth. As a local physician he continued to prove that forward and progressive medicine really could be practiced in Portsmouth, performing the first fast exchange blood transfusion in a newborn with a potentially fatal blood condition.
“He had quite an audience,” Barb says. “He was very good at fluid balance, essentially, caring for sick babies in the hospital.”
Dr. MacDonald was instrumental in starting the Portsmouth Area Mother’s Milk Bank, was medical director of the Portsmouth City Health Department, was a football team physician for PHS for 14 years and a special pediatric care unit was named in his honor at the hospital.
The MacDonalds raised five children: Candace Costas of Scottsdale, Ariz.; Scott of Cutler; Kirk and Eric, also a physician, both of Portsmouth; and Bruce of Wheelersburg. They have 15 grandchildren, with a great-grandson due this month.
Jack’s outside hobby was harness horse racing, and he and Dr. Jerome Rini initially started the hobby with one horse. Over time Dr. MacDonald built up a stable of horses and participated in amateur racing as far as New York and Hollywood, before settling down to a long line of races around Ohio.
“We all loved it and the children got to go to fairs all over Ohio,” Barb says.
Dr. MacDonald retired in 1998 and died in August 2000. The medical society posthumously honored him that year with his 50-year pin in appreciation of his years of service. He will receive the Lifetime Recogntion Award at Wednesday’s event, with members of his family accepting the honor.
Dr. Hong S. Kang, a local physician in the practice of psychiatry, will receive his 50-year pin at the meeting. The award is presented on behalf of the Ohio State Medical Association and the local medical society. Dr. Kang graduated in 1960 from the Korea University Medical School in Seoul, Korea.
He married Jane Kang and they have four children. In 1983 Dr. Kang was appointed medical director of the former Portsmouth Receiving Hospital. Dr. Li-Fen L. Chang, local radiation oncologist, is the outgoing president of the society and will welcome incoming president Dr. Rajesh Kataria, local rheumatologist.