One of A Kind: John Callendar, MD 1923-2013
Mrs. Betty Peters
CPMC Foundation Trustee
Dr. John Callander was an extraordinary example of each, and gifted with the most charming and infectious smile, he flowed gracefully from one role to the next. For decades a tireless advocate for Sutter Health’s CPMC, Dr. Callander passed peacefully away at home on June 9, surrounded by his loving family. A highly regarded orthopaedic surgeon for many years, Dr. Callander founded California Pacific Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine in 1972. In addition to his practice, Dr. Callander volunteered his time caring for patients at the San Francisco Free Clinic and for the dancers of the San Francisco Ballet as the company physician. He also was an active volunteer with the San Francisco Boys and Girls Clubs, Boy Scouts of America, Police Athletic League, CPMC Foundation and numerous other organizations.
In short, he was a very busy man his entire life.
Family Man. Friend. Physician. Philanthropy
“HOW CAN I HELP YOU?”
“Dad was my hero,” says Peter Callander, M.D., who followed in his father’s footsteps and became an orthopaedic surgeon who performs knee and hip replacements at CPMC, and now also at Novato Community Hospital. “He had a tremendous ability to pinpoint the real problem a patient was having,” says Peter, a skill he attributes partly to his father’s significant hearing loss—a condition many people didn’t know affected Dr. Callander. Because he had difficulty hearing a moan or groan if something was uncomfortable, Dr. Callander set up mirrors in different spots of his examination room so he could always see his patients’ facial reactions while he manipulated their joints.
“The nurses in the operating room and the emergency department used to say he had magic hands,” says Rick Bost, M.D. “He could set a fracture or relocate a dislocated shoulder faster than anyone I ever saw. It probably was because he relied so much on his sense of touch to compensate for his hearing difficulties. But truly, if there was a late-night injury that came into emergency, he was the first guy the nurses would call because they knew it would go smoothly.”
“There’s no doubt John was a skilled surgeon, but his ability to see the good in people was even more impressive,” says Bill Green, M.D., also an orthopaedic surgeon. “He was a great listener and he always thought about the other person’s needs. In fact, he was famous among those who knew him for always saying, ‘How can I help you?’”
Dr. Callander was the first-ever recipient of CPMC Foundation’s Doyle-Jewitt Philanthropic Leadership Award in 2010. With him here are sons Ken and Peter, his wife Barbara and daughter Sara Stephens.
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INSPIRING OTHERS TO GIVE
Over the years, Dr. Callander’s extraordinary surgical skills and compassionate approach helped him build a large and loyal following. He, as much as any physician, embodied the highly personalized care that has become synonymous with CPMC. Just how personal? One time a patient who knew that Dr. Callander played squash early in the morning was having tremendous back pain and went to the club to ask for his help. Dr. Callander stopped his match and had a consultation with the man right there on the spot.
That patient was Tom Austin, who ultimately had back surgery and later a double knee replacement at CPMC. He is so appreciative of the care he received that he has included CPMC in his estate plan— a move he credits to Dr. Callander. "John emphasized to me that it was others’ generosity that allowed me to have this world-class care," says Austin.
“When it came to fundraising, John really saw the big picture,” says Bob Tomasello, chair of Sutter Health’s West Bay Region Board of Directors. “He realized that many of his patients were the type of people who were willing to make great care available to others. So he stayed in tune to the entire hospital’s needs, not just his own.” For instance, Dr. Callander once helped a colleague with little experience in philanthropy explain to a donor the need for a linear accelerator in cancer services. The meeting resulted in a significant gift to CPMC. “John was an inspiration,” says Tomasello, “and a great example of how a physician can have such a positive impact on the fundraising process.”
CPMC Foundation Trustee Mrs. Betty Peters once said of Dr. Callander. "With his kindly manner you wouldn't think he could be so persistent as a fundraiser - but you would be wrong."
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The 7 Key ingredients Of Dr. John Callander (As described by his son, Bruce Callander)
- Kindness to all.
- Remember people’s passions.
- Be productive in society.
- Be excellent in your field.
- Always be positive.
- Keep your temper at all times.
- Others first.
The secret ingredient:Mom
"Over 50 years ago, on a rainy New Year’s Eve, I carried my infant son into Dr. John Callander’s Union Square office. Alec had been born with feet that were in a position John called ‘windblown.’ He suggested two remedies. One was to place my newborn in a cast, along with all the misery that would entail. The alternative, because infants’ bones are so malleable, was to gently massage Alec’s feet every time I changed his diaper until both feet were in perfect alignment. So, of course, I chose the home remedy and the story ends happily with no fuss. This was Dr. Callander’s style – common-sense advice given with his usual lovely manner and warm smile."
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“A complete physician is one who addresses the whole patient, one who knows something about the person and the family so that he can approach the illness with an awareness of any problems that might affect the treatment.” John Callander, M.D.