Perspective: Remembering Dr. Wrobleski
The pandemic has robbed us all of precious moments with family, friends and loved ones. Nowhere is this more self-evident than when one someone truly important passes away. Certain people deserve the recognition and the honor to be remembered by the ones he left behind. Dr. Edward Wrobleski was one of those truly important people. Important to his family, important to his colleagues, his work family and the community he served for more than 40 years.
So here I am with pen in hand trying to figure out how to honor my friend.
I joined his practice in the town of Hammonton in 1982. I found out very quickly that Dr. W approached problems with the same philosophy: It is either right or it is wrong. By right, I mean for the patient and the community. He never worried about how decisions would affect him personally or financially.
Dr. W never missed one day at work ever. That meant I never missed a day and Gerry, Jing, Ken, Patrick, T and Lannae never missed a day,
We started work at 7 a.m. every morning. We discussed every inpatient in detail. We participated in lively academic discussions as to what was the best course of care for each individual patient. Dr. W’s practice was the most well-informed and organized practice I have ever worked in. Dr. W talked but he also listened—to patients and to colleagues. He was extremely intelligent but talked to you like a friend, not an employee or a patient.
Gerry Ukrainski used to refer to W as “the old man.” This of course was an Italian term of endearment to the man who was the father figure for the entire practice. We were a family. Invariably, as all family do, there were knock-down-drag-out arguments about various issues. However, like all good families, the following day at 7 a.m. all was forgotten and we continued like nothing happened.
Ed was a dedicated husband and father. Outside of the office you would never hear Ed’s name without June’s name. It was always Ed and June. They did so much for this community outside the medical practice and did it together. Their community involvement included just about everything from arts to politics to downtown development. Their son David was always a good kid and grew to be an exceptional and respected physician in his own right with wonderful family devoted to their grandfather.
Many people do not realize that Ed was one of the most generous people I have ever met. If you go to one of Jefferson’s main pavilions at the top you will see the names of people who have donated big to make that pavilion possible. On that list was Kimmel, and next to him, Dr. Edward and June Wrobleski. Let us just say you do not get that kind of recognition for $10 donation.
Early in my time here in Hammonton we moved to our office at Eighth St. and White Horse Pike. This was Ed’s building but rent was incredibly fair and none of us thought anything about it. When the office was sold 20 years later, Ed split the profits three ways. Split between the three of us that work there those 20 years. Ed did not have to do that but of course he thought it was the right thing to do. Are you getting a recurring theme here?
I’m sure that no one in this town realizes the magnitude of his generosity. We all knew that Kessler Hospital was too small to survive on its own. We tried our best to affiliate with AtlantiCare or Virtua but were blocked at that attempt repeatedly. People do not realize that our group never did stress tests or echocardiograms outside the hospital. We did them in the hospital so that the hospital could recoup the technical portion of the bill and we would only get professional. We were the only cardiology group in South Jersey to not have our own testing center. This was a lot of money and this, in my opinion, kept Kessler afloat for years longer than would otherwise have occurred. Quite honestly I do not know if I would make that decision if W was not there. He thought it was the right thing to do.
Anyone that knew Dr. W also knew that politics was his favorite subject. He would argue politics with anyone. Every pharmaceutical rep in South Jersey knew that they better be up on current events before they came to WSUZ office. Yeah, we would discuss their drug but you would also discuss all aspects of politics and current events. No one wanted to be taken to school by Dr. W.
Dr. Wrobleski was a friend to many outside of his practice and enjoyed speaking with them about family, politics, sports and matters of faith. He was a quietly humble man who appreciated even the smallest kindnesses from friends and many moments with those friends, family and colleagues. He frequently joined friends at events from dinners to poetry readings to art exhibits to sporting events to visits to such places as the Rosary Garden and Faith Walk at the nearby Discovery House. He was also a man who graciously shared what he had with those friends.
I am sure you are familiar with the Hollywood social media parlor game entitled “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.” The premise is to find the shortest path between an arbitrary actor and the prolific actor Kevin Bacon, linked by films they have appeared in together.
I have my own theory however entitled “Four Degrees of Edward Wrobleski.” I propose that everyone’s life in the town of Hammonton has been touched in some way with a good work of Dr. W. He saved countless lives, made countless lives better for great-grandparents, grandparents, parents and children who all benefit from his hard-working commitment. Think about it. Think about your relatives and your friends and their friends. They have all been affected by Dr. W and the way he practice medicine in some way.
I think Dr. W’s dream was to be someone powerful and influential like a senator or congressman. I think however that he did not realize what a legacy he has left behind. What is happening in Washington is shallow, self-serving and egocentric. Everything that Dr. W was not.
Dr. Wrobleski was a man of great consequence, a very important man.
He will be missed.
Dr. John A. Saia