Some triumphs capture the world’s attention. But there are other smaller, personal triumphs happening around us all the time. Doug Ulkins knows that as well as anyone. He and his family’s role in one of those personal victories is part of his reason for saying “I am always amazed by the personalized care we receive at Guthrie, and by the quality of care as well.”
Doug Ulkins will never forget July 20, 1969. For most people who were alive then, they may remember gathering to pray that Neil Armstrong and his crew would be successful on their mission to the moon, and return safely to earth. Twelve-year-old Doug and his four brothers in Coudersport were also gathered to pray, but for a very different reason. Their dad was undergoing triple bypass heart surgery at Guthrie Robert Packer Hospital – one of the first to be performed there. The procedure was successful, and his father made a full recovery.
“Since that day, the Robert Packer Hospital and the Guthrie Health System have held a special place in my heart,” says Doug. “As a kid, I didn’t understand much except the fact that doctors had pulled off a miracle. But they gave my dad another 12 years he probably wouldn’t have had otherwise. After the surgery, he started focusing more on his health. He lost a lot of weight, cut back on work, watched what he ate, and took up golf. I took up golf too as a teenager, so I could spend more time with him.”
Like many families in the area, Doug’s dad is not the only one in the family who has received medical care at Guthrie – he, his wife, his mom, and his children have all gotten care at Guthrie, as have many in his extended family. “My wife and I have both had surgery, and our children and grandchildren were born there as well,” he says. “Nothing, however, has impacted my life like my father’s surgery. That was the biggest thing that compelled me to give back.”
In 2005, Doug joined the board of the Donald Guthrie Foundation, which is committed to supporting the health system’s exceptional education and research programs. A few years later, he became the director of the foundation’s board of trustees.
“We’re lucky to have a world-class hospital in our backyard,” Doug says. “It’s one of the reasons my wife and I decided to live here.”