When Dr. Michael Danzig hung out his shingle in 1978 as one of few cardiologists practicing in Southwest Florida, the 32-year-old figured he’d put away his stethoscope for good at age 55 and enjoy a well-earned retirement.
“But age 55 became 60, and then it was 65,” Dr. Danzig says about his plans for retiring. “Then it became 70.”
But it wouldn’t be age 70, either. Clearly, the heart doctor has not been a man of his word when deciding when to swap a fulfilling medical career for more leisure time. Until now.
The Southwest Florida community and Lee Health will bid Dr. Danzig a final farewell Aug. 1.
Forty-two years and thousands of patients later, the New York native has grown roots deeper here than a cypress tree. He and Janice, his wife of 53 years, now live in Estero after raising two sons in Fort Myers, where the couple lived for decades after Dr. Danzig joined Lee Health.
Things have changed just a little since those days.
“When I came in 1978, there were three hospitals in Lee County,” Dr. Danzig notes. “There was Lee Memorial, of course, the county’s first hospital, and Cape Coral Hospital, which had opened the year before. Back then, most cardiology procedures were done at Fort Myers Community Hospital, which is now Gulf Coast Medical Center.”
At the time, Lee County’s population was nearing 200,000 (it tops 600,000 currently), Southwest Florida International Airport (the second-busiest single-runway commercial airport in the U.S.) was just an idea, and Dr. Danzig had just completed a cardiology fellowship at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, D.C.
Like most people who decide to relocate to Florida for the weather, Dr. Danzig and his wife had tired of the Northeastern winters.
But it wasn’t only the sun that warmed them in Southwest Florida. “We found a wonderful community that was very open and welcoming. It’s just a great, great community.”
Dr. Danzig says he always wanted to be a cardiologist despite the rigors of education, which include more than 10 years of medical training, not to mention long hospital hours and unexpected night and weekend emergency calls to care for a critically ill patient.
Here’s what made it all worthwhile for him: “The most gratifying part was helping critically ill persons not only to just survive, but to see them have remarkably productive lives afterward,” he says. “I was blessed to know so many patients who demonstrated resiliency and strength of character.”
A fan of leisure traveling, Dr. Danzig had hoped to do more of it with Janice but the pandemic has grounded those plans, at least for now.
Instead, he will devote more time to the grandkids, indulge in his hobbies of photography, reading, and golf — and do a little volunteering, as if he hasn’t given enough to the community in the past 42 years.
“We're going through some tough times now and we all need to help each other out,” he says about the challenging times of the pandemic. “We have to keep a positive approach. Negativity won’t get us anywhere. We all need to work together and we’ll get through these times.”
Dr. Danzig’s optimism is a prescription for these times, certainly.
On behalf of Lee Health and the Southwest Florida community, best wishes, Dr. Danzig!
Dr. Danzig and his wife of 53 years, Janice.