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Dr. William Schmalz's retirement from Monroe Hospital spurs outpouring of thanks
By Norm Crampton,
When word spread that Dr. William J. Schmalz was retiring from medical practice after 45 years of serving patients in Bloomington, the phones at Monroe Hospital began ringing with thanks for his service to the community.
“He has been a true hero right here in our hometown and will be greatly missed,” said Shelly Figg, Monroe Hospital director of physician services.
A Bloomington native and perhaps the longest-serving general practitioner in Bloomington, Dr. Schmalz retired about a month ago. Interviewed at his home, he sounded like a reluctant retiree.
“What I’d like to say is that it’s been a privilege and a joy for me — and I miss it already,” Dr. Schmalz said.
How many patients has he served during his professional career? Something over 7,000, he thought.
But it’s not his numbers that count, Dr. Schmalz suggested.
“I should take care of you not measured by my life but measured by your life — that I did my job well enough for you to continue your journey,” he said. “I feel like it was a life of service. But my sense is if I lived to 100, I’d feel like I never completed my task.”
Reflecting on medicine as he has practiced it, Dr. Schmalz said, “Part of our job is not just figuring out what’s wrong with you but administering to the psychology of your insecurities — your needs, your worries, your concerns. Part of the art of medicine is to be a good listener. There’s nothing that replaces the doctor-patient relationship one-to-one.”
Dr. Schmalz, 76 years old, was born on April 1, 1947, at Bloomington Hospital, and lived as a little kid in the family apartment on Kirkwood “right across the street from Nick’s,” he recalled.
Dr. Schmalz’s mom and dad were proprietors of Schmalz Department Store, at 213 N. Walnut, half a block north of Monroe County Courthouse Square.
He entered kindergarten at Margaret McCalla School, at Ninth Street and Indiana Avenue, and later attended University High School, which became the Indiana University performance building on Eagleson Avenue that includes Auer Hall.
Dr. Schmalz felt called to medical practice from an early age, he said. And he began at the bottom, hired at about age 14 as an orderly at Bloomington Hospital sweeping floors, dusting and cleaning up.
He graduated from DePauw University in 1968 and from Indiana University Medical School in 1972; moved on to cardiology work at Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis, then into private practice in Anderson, Indiana, in 1976. Dr. Schmalz came back to Bloomington in 1978 and was affiliated with Bloomington Hospital until 2007 when he joined Monroe Hospital.
“I look at him as an old-fashioned physician,” said Thomas Whitehead, director of marketing and business development at Monroe Hospital.
“He would show up anytime to see a patient. I’ve seen him in the parking lot, wheel-chairing people.”
Figg remembered, “During COVID, he would see people in the parking lot outside his office because he didn’t want to get a patient or his staff sick.”
And Dr. Schmalz didn’t want any fuss when he retired, she said.
“He’s not a big showboat,” Figg said. “We didn’t even have a thing for him here, at the hospital. He didn’t want anything. It’s always about everybody else.”
So, what does a legendary M.D. do when he retires?
Among other interests, Dr. Schmalz is a long-time fan of IU basketball and doesn’t miss a home game. You’ll see him sitting in his favorite seat in the fourth row, right behind the scorers’ table.