Chief medical officer and emergency medicine physician at Mercy Medical CenterDr. David L. Gormsen did not grow up wanting to be a doctor. It took a prescient college adviser to set him on a 48-year journey that has been both rewarding and satisfying.
Gormsen has been the chief medical officer at Mercy Medical Center for 17 years.
A native of Cleveland, Gormsen was raised in Strongsville and later moved to Stow. He earned his undergraduate degree from Defiance College and completed his medical degree at the Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine.
“It was probably my sophomore or junior year in college; I really didn’t have a good idea of what I wanted to do,” he recalled. “I wasn’t a great high school student. I had an unimpressive freshman year. I had a good adviser by chance, who was also teaching science. After my freshman year, we had a meeting.”
The adviser, Gormsen said, invited him to become a laboratory assistant.
“He also signed me up for some science courses my sophomore year, and I did very well. When I got on that path, I just decided to apply to some osteopathic schools, and sure enough, I was accepted into one.”
An only child, Gormsen’s parents owned a business selling tillers, generators and other garden equipment to greenhouses. They were surprised, he said, but very supportive of his decision to pursue medicine.
“They thought I could do it, and encouraged,” he recalled. “I know people in my high school were surprised. I graduated mid to lower level (high school). I think I was the only physician in my class.”
Gormsen completed his osteopathic internship at Warren General Hospital, where he met his wife, Pat, a surgical nurse. The couple of 38 years have three adult children.
He also applied for and won a Navy scholarship through the Celebrezze Center in Cleveland. He was commissioned as an ensign. As such, his medical education was paid for, along with a small stipend.
“In the Navy in the 1970s, they were very short of physicians,” Gormsen said. Gormsen was accepted in the Navy Flight Surgeons training program.
Gormsen said he was sent to Pensacola, Florida, for six months, where training included learning how to fly a plane. After training, Gormsen opted to serve two years at the Marine Corps Air Station in El Toro, California.
“It was really a very good experience,” he said.
The Gormsens returned to Pensacola, where he served as a flight-wing surgeon, responsible for overseeing the health of young pilots who were learning to fly.
Gormsen left the Navy after four years of service, as a Lt. Commander. He returned to Northeast Ohio, where he completed his residency at Akron General Hospital, which included a year training in emergency care. He joined the Mercy Medical Center in 1986. He served as chair of the emergency department at Mercy for more than 12 years. He also co-founded Stark County Emergency Physicians, a private practice.
“I still work clinically,” he said. “I was working in urgent care in North Canton until January of this year.”
Gormsen said his military experience was greatly beneficial.
“I had to grow up pretty fast,” he said. “In medical school, it’s focused on your school work; there’s not a lot of responsibilities other than your studies. I was part of a Rapid Deployment Force. I had to make sure they were getting enough sleep and that I was well-trained on medical issues. I also had to deal with base commandeers, and I opened my own clinic where I was working with corpsmen.
“It allowed me to interact with some great people. It prepared me for leadership roles later on. It was a great experience. We still go back to Pensacola every year. The military is still a big part of us.”
Gormsen said he has seen many changes in medicine over the years, saying, “Many are for the good; some are a challenge, obviously. Technology is one of many big changes, with health records and how you document the charts and notes. There’s easier access to health care providers. There is a lot more paperwork with all the different insurance companies. There are a lot more phone calls to be made, a lot more hoops to go through.
“A lot of the time we allot to medicine is trying to figure out how the whole thing works. We have to be careful now to order just what patients need because they often have to pay for it.”
Other changes, he said, include more outpatient treatment and the most recent trend of preventative care.
“It’s trying to get patients to be more healthy by taking more responsibility for their for health, and not just taking care of them when they’re sick,” he said. “It’s about preventing them getting to that point.”
However some things, Gormsen said, shouldn’t change.
“You have to understand technology and focus on patients,” he said. “The problem is we’re spending too much time on the computer and not enough on patients. You have to find a balance.”
“The best way for me is to sit down and have a face-to-face and focus on their issues. Obviously, the younger physicians are very savvy with computers. … We still really have to focus on personal interaction with patients. I’m a little concerned about that.”
Gormsen said medicine’s reward has been helping people and interacting with “good folks.”
That interaction has included 16 mission trips to the Dominican Republic.
“I get a tremendous joy out of doing that,” he said.
Gormsen said medicine has a bright future, due in large part to talented young physicians entering the field.
“By far and away, people appreciate what you do,” he said of medicine. “I can’t imagine doing anything else that would have made me as satisfied.”