As he prepares for retirement, Dr. Joseph D’Ambrosio takes a look back at his 14-year career at WMed

Dr. Joseph D'Ambrosio
Dr. Joseph D'Ambrosio

During a career at WMed that spanned 14 years, Dr. Joseph D’Ambrosio had the opportunity to wear several hats, to step into leadership roles where he was able to have a part in guiding the direction of the institution.

In many ways, Dr. D’Ambrosio said, the opportunities he has had during his time in Kalamazoo were all about being in the right place at the right time.

“I thought I would stay in Kalamazoo for five or six years and move on to something bigger and better,” he said. “I was thinking I would have to go elsewhere for that last step of my career but then talk of the medical school came in 2008. At that point, it just seemed like a unique opportunity.

“How many physicians get to be part of a new medical school?” he added. “That was a big deal.”

Now, Dr. D’Ambrosio, the medical school’s associate dean for Clinical Affairs, is preparing to call it a career as he eyes retirement in March. His last day at WMed will be Tuesday, March 26, 2019.

A cake reception honoring Dr. D'Ambrosio is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. on March 26 in the Oakland Drive Campus cafeteria. A retirement reception is also scheduled for later in the day from 5:15 to 7:00 p.m. in the second floor clinic lobby at the Oakland Drive Campus. Formal remarks will be delivered at 6:00 p.m.

His retirement brings to close a career in medicine that began in 1979 when he earned his DMD degree from Boston University Goldman School of Dentistry. What followed was a 14-year career in dentistry with stints in private practice and work as a dental officer with the U.S. Public Health Service/National Health Service Corps.

A Massachusetts native, Dr. D’Ambrosio returned to eventually finish his MD degree at Boston University Medical School and then completed his training in Internal Medicine-Pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas.

Prior to coming to WMed in 2005, Dr. D’Ambrosio worked in private practice in Palm Harbor, Florida, and, later, in Melbourne, Florida.

During his time in private practice in Palm Harbor, Dr. D’Ambrosio said he enjoyed his work, especially the time he spent teaching and training medical students and residents from the Morsani College of Medicine at the University of South Florida. 

However, when he made the move to Melbourne, Florida, in 2002, the work did not involve teaching or working with medical students or residents and he quickly realized how much he missed those interactions and being a part of shaping the next generation of physicians.

“I wasn’t there a day or a week and I realized I had made a mistake,” Dr. D’Ambrosio said. “Without teaching, I wasn’t going to be happy.”

With that in mind, Dr. D’Ambrosio said he began working closely with a recruiter and set out in search of a full-time position in academic medicine.

He admits now that he was initially hesitant to come to Kalamazoo, to make the move from Florida to Michigan to a Midwest town he, at that point, had never heard of. But, in 2004, when he interviewed for a position at what was then the Michigan State University Kalamazoo Center for Medical Studies, the predecessor to WMed, Dr. D’Ambrosio said he knew he had found his new home.

He was impressed by the resident physicians he met, how bright they were and the cases they presented. He was intrigued by the challenge of working in a community-based residency program.

“I liked everything,” Dr. D’Ambrosio said. “I liked the town, I liked the people. I tell people I came here to work with Dr. (Mark) Loehrke. He’s far from perfect but he was so warm and friendly and I could see the residents really respected and loved him.

“Everyone I met, I was just very impressed by them,” he added.

By 2008, when talk of a new medical school began to gain momentum, he was an associate professor in the departments of Medicine and Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine. He had also taken on the roles of transitional program director and program director of the Medicine-Pediatrics Residency Program.

In 2015, one year after WMed welcomed its first class of MD students, he became the associate dean for Clinical Affairs and continued to serve as the program director of the medical school’s Medicine-Pediatrics Residency Program until 2016.

“Opportunities kept coming along for me,” Dr. D’Ambrosio said. “This was one of those times in my career where I was in the right place at the right time.”

Dr. D’Ambrosio credits the leadership of WMed’s Founding Dean Dr. Hal B. Jenson in helping make the medical school a reality. 

“One of the things that strikes me most about Hal’s abilities is he took a group of people that were a part of graduate medical education and had never really had any relationship with a medical school,” Dr. D’Ambrosio said. “He pushed us in a direction and guided us, and got things done.”

In his role as associate dean for Clinical Affairs, Dr. D’Ambrosio said he sought to improve outpatient clinical training for WMed students and resident physicians. While there is still work to be done, he said he is proud of the what has been accomplished under his watch.

“I think that we’re moving in a direction where we have recognized the importance of outpatient training for the American physician, particularly here in Kalamazoo,” Dr. D’Ambrosio said. “That’s what I’m most proud of. There’s no doubt that inpatient hospital training is important but the physician of the latter part of this century, I think, is going to have a different role and be more focused on preventive care. They will be team leaders with a team of professionals under them and that’s how we’re going to take care of our patients.”

Even though his time at WMed will come to an end on March 26, Dr. D’Ambrosio said he doesn’t plan to quit working entirely. In April, he said he will begin working half-time as a field staff representative for the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME).

In the new role, Dr. D’Ambrosio will take part in scheduled and data-driven field visits to residency programs, as well as initial site visits for new residency programs throughout the country.

“I’m excited because it will allow me to still contribute to medical education in an important and unique way while still having time to do other things, travel, and enjoy life,” he said.