MORRISBURG – To many it will seem like the end of an era when Dr. Wayne Domanko officially retires after nearly 50 years as a doctor in this community. He has been a dedicated and compassionate care-giver for thousands of people since he first came to Morrisburg, to the St. Lawrence Medical Clinic, in 1969.
During an interview in his home on January 17, Wayne shared memories of his many years of service here in South Dundas.
“I’m semi-retired now,” Wayne said.
“But I have to say that the transition has been a bit emotionally difficult for me. I’ve been used to getting up at 5 a.m. and heading off to my job for many years. And I miss the colleagues I worked with and the people I looked after. However, I believe it was the right time for me to leave.”
He is firm that he could never have made that final decision to retire without knowing that “two really great doctors, Dr. Meaghan Brown and Dr. Michael Ben Simon, will be taking over my practice. It gives me relief and pleasure to know that my patients will be well looked after.”
Of course, with Wayne Domanko ‘retirement’ may actually be a relative term.
He is currently working two mornings a week and every second Friday assisting in surgery at Winchester District Memorial Hospital, mostly in obstetrics and gynecology. In February he will join Dr. Mohamed Gazarin, a research director at WDMH, on some “very interesting projects.”
“I have a lot of energy and I need to focus it productively,” Wayne said.
He will also continue to be the director of Medical Education at Winchester, in charge of arranging talks by specialists for residents and family doctors.
His ‘retirement schedule’ also leaves plenty of room for his on-going and committed involvement in several community projects with the Morrisburg and District Lions Club and other charitable organizations.
“I grew up in small-town Saskatchewan,” he explained. “The attitude there was that if a community is to thrive, you have to put something back into it. This is my home. Both Jane and I like to be involved.”
How did a Saskatchewan boy end up practicing medicine in small-town Eastern Ontario?
Almost by accident, according to Wayne.
He cites a quote from John Lennon. “Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.”
At age 17, newly graduated from high school, Wayne’s plan was to sign up for economics and political science at the University of Saskatchewan. However when he and his friend Roly Nystrom arrived on campus to register, the line for type B arts was hugely long, with a long wait.
The pre-med line was much shorter.
They decided to get into the shorter line. “And that was it,” Wayne laughed.
He was accepted into pre-med after two years.
“Jane and I thought I’d intern at the Royal Alex in Edmonton,” Wayne said. “Edmonton’s like Saskatoon, just larger and colder. So we thought that maybe we’d head east instead, and I ended up at the Ottawa Civic Hospital.”
That’s where he met Dr. Gerry Rosenquist: once again Wayne’s careful plans took a completely unexpected turn.
“Gerry, in his subtle and not so subtle way, convinced me to come to Morrisburg even though I already had a residency in ophthalmology waiting for me in Cincinnati. Honestly, life really does just happen when you’re making other plans. We planned to be in Morrisburg just one year, but we really took to this community. And this community took to me. In the end,” Wayne said, “all my planning wouldn’t have worked out as well as this did.”
During his years with the St. Lawrence Medical Clinic and at Winchester District Memorial Hospital, Wayne was involved in doctor recruitment, and also took an active role in several fundraising efforts at the hospital. “Winchester Hospital is a great asset to our community; I had wonderful, dedicated colleagues working there.”
He was chief of anesthesia at the Hospital for 30 years. He also took students in residence following Winchester’s affiliation with the University of Ottawa which began in 2006 – an activity he is still involved in.
Wayne has also “given back” to his profession through his involvement with the Medical Council of Canada initially as an examiner for the MCCII exams, (which are compulsory for medical licences and are written simultaneously across Canada). In the last six years, he’s been a chief examiner and run one of the three sites at the University of Ottawa.
“I fill the role of administrator,” Wayne explained. “I deal with issues, complaints or problems with evaluation.” He’s handled this often demanding job for nearly 10 years. “Again, I see this as a way to give back to my profession,” he said.
His efforts over 50 years have not gone unnoticed by either his profession or his community. He has been awarded many honours, including recognition for Exceptional Medical Service. He is a highly respected member of this community.
His family remains the strong core of his life.
In their nearly five decades in South Dundas community, Wayne and his wife Jane raised their three boys.
“I could never have done these 50 years as a doctor without the support of my wife, Jane,” Wayne said. “She was the backbone of this family. She tolerated my long hours and she took on a lot of responsibilities and duties.”
Wayne is deeply proud of his sons and their families.
Michael is a chiropractor, and he and his wife Tanya have a daughter, Dana. Robert, who lives in Montreal and works in finance, and his wife, Vinaya, have two children, Dev and Lila. Jon, a lawyer in Toronto with Tim Horton’s, and his wife, Cindy, have four children Ella, Simon and Luke, the twins, and Faye.
“This community was a wonderful place for our sons to grow up. It was a wonderful place to raise a family, and we are very grateful for that,” Wayne said.
Wayne is considering some of the possibilities that many feel “come with” retirement.
“Jane and I are actually planning to do some travelling,” he said. “We’re looking at Burgundy and Provence, perhaps in September. And I think we may leave the Canadian cold one day, maybe for a month down south. But we don’t want to stray too far from our family.”
In the meantime, as he moves into this new phase of his life, Dr. Wayne Domanko has some final thoughts about what it means to have been a doctor for nearly 50 years.
“I am so grateful that I was able to be part of a wonderful profession where people trusted me with their most priceless possessions, their lives. We went through times of happiness and grief together.
I have received official awards and professional recognition, but over the latter part of my tenure, so many people have come up and thanked me so profoundly for helping them. Those comments were heartfelt and I think they meant more to me than all the plaques and paper.
Those comments really tug at your heart.”