Serving Patients & Country: A Spotlight on Dr. Mark Dobbertien
Thursday, March 14, 2019
Posted by: DCMS
Approaching 20 years of active service to the U.S. Navy, Mark Dobbertien, MD, FACS is no stranger to caring for patients and his country. Commander Dobbertien was detailed to Naval Hospital Jacksonville in 1992 and he and his wife, Lisa Dynan-Dobbertien, DO, an Osteopathic Family Physician, and their four boys have made Jacksonville home ever since.
In this month’s Duval County Medical Society Member Spotlight, Dr. Dobbertien highlights his career as a Naval Officer and Minimally Invasive Surgeon:
Why become a physician? I was always good at math and science, but was most influenced by watching my maternal grandfather die from prostate cancer. Before medical school, I worked in my hometown hospital as a phlebotomist, lab tech in the blood bank, and doing autopsies with pathologist Salvatore Cilella, MD.
Your premedical education? I attended the University of Notre Dame (my dream school) and worked as an OR orderly as a senior. I struggled for three years after college to get into medical school. In the meantime, I attended grad school at MSU and worked in a hospital. I am thankful to Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, then-President of Notre Dame, who wrote a letter of recommendation and to then-Dean Harold Hakes, JD who accepted me at the Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine.
What was medical school like? I immersed myself in academic pursuits and in organized medicine with the Illinois State Medical Society and AMA. I developed an interest in surgery through the mentorship of an anatomist surgeon. I graduated valedictorian of my class, but most importantly, met my wife, Lisa. We married one year later and had four boys as we trained as physicians. To this day, I’m not sure how we did that!
After medical school, I also completed a General Surgery residency at the University of Illinois Metropolitan Group Hospital while on deferment from the Navy.
When did you become active duty? After leaving Chicago in 1992, I spent a year on the USS Saratoga CV 60 as the ship’s surgeon. I left active service in 1997 to start in private practice.
Private practice, too? I worked at Flagler Hospital in St. Augustine from 1997-2003. My practice was extremely diverse including vascular, thoracic, hepatobiliary, endoscopy, endocrine, breast, and general surgery. During that time, I served as President of the County Medical Society and as a member of the Executive Committee at Flagler Hospital. The malpractice crisis and 9/11 led me back in the Navy in 2003.
Currently? I’m a general surgeon in the Navy and will complete 20 years of active service next month. I’ve deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan as a trauma surgeon. I spent one year in GTMO taking care of the base and detainees. I’ve had many experiences including serving as ship surgeon on the USS Saratoga and USS John F Kennedy, decommissioning both ships, and deploying to the Persian Gulf on multiple DDG’s. I’ve earned the Fleet Marine Force Officer device and Surface Warfare Medical Officer device, as well as the Meritorious Service Medal, Joint Achievement Medal, and two Navy Marine Corps Commendation Medals. At Naval Hospital Jacksonville, I’ve served as Department Head of General Surgery, Associate Director of Surgical Services, and Director of Clinical Support Services. The Navy has always provided leadership opportunity. I’ve especially loved being around corpsman who are eager to learn and find their way in life.
Why participate in the DCMS? I’ve enjoyed organized medicine since medical school and currently have the tremendous honor of being on the DCMS Executive Committee. The DCMS and DCMS Foundation are committed to fostering partnerships with public/private entities to enhance health initiatives on the First Coast. The organizations provide advocacy and educational benefits to members and the community. The LifeBridge: Physician Wellness Program provides a confidential resource for physicians in need. The Leadership Academy develops young medical leaders. The Future of Healthcare Conference is open to the public and covers topics like gun violence, the opioid crisis, and mental health. The DCMS and Navy embrace the military-civilian partnership by hosting an annual dinner at NAS JAX.
Other organized medicine involvement? I’m a member of the American College of Surgeons (ACS) and serve as Advocacy Chair for the Florida Chapter. We recently had our advocacy day in Tallahassee to outline our legislative agenda for members of the House and Senate Healthcare Committees. Doctors want to ensure patients have access to quality surgical and medical care. Non-physicians are continually looking to expand their scope of practice which we oppose for adequacy of training concerns and patient safety. Our medical malpractice system needs reforming. Frivolous lawsuits by trial attorneys lead to defensive medicine, higher costs, and fewer services for patients. Medicaid reform is needed, as patients are unable to obtain services because most physicians cannot afford to take Medicaid reimbursement. We hope the legislature will fund the Stop the Bleed campaign, an effort to save lives in emergencies like active-shooter scenarios.
Other roles I’ve held include Governor of the ACS and member of the Health Policy and Advocacy Workgroup. I’m also on the Health Policy and Advocacy Council and participate on a workgroup identifying ways surgeons can contribute to ending the opioid crisis in America.
How is practicing medicine in the military different from civilian practice? As a surgeon, our deployment tempo often disrupts work-family balance and our stateside practice. Military training requirements are a constant challenge. However, the rewards of serving humanity and our country trump any burdens. Most military doctors are selfless servants that went into medicine because they loved it. The pride of being a physician in uniform is an amazing honor. The diversity of practice in the military is another attraction. War surgery is significantly different from civilian trauma. Stateside, I do minimally invasive surgery with scopes and monitors; in war, I do maximally invasive surgery to try and save lives from blast injuries.
Can you share about your childhood? I grew up in Michigan exploring outdoors, climbing trees, and playing sports. My father was an engineer and was always doing something around the house, with the lawn, house, or cars. He loved golf and taught me how to play. He also served as a pilot in the Navy. I remember having arguments with him about the merits of the Vietnam War as a child. He is 91 and lives in Arizona. My mother was a housewife and raised my sister and I. She was a Spanish teacher prior to marrying. She has an amazing sense of humor and believed in personal responsibility and good citizenship. She is 84 and lives in Illinois.
Early influences? My parents exposed me to adults at an early age and had me working from age 8. I learned how to function at a high level from early childhood and thank God for that opportunity. Early on, Dr. Cilella and Mrs. Landgraf took me under their wing at the local hospital in Niles. At Notre Dame, my peer group was incredible and Father Hesburgh was an inspiration. During my struggles to get into medical school, nurses, physicians, and others encouraged me to never give up. In medical school, organized medicine encouraged me to advocate for the profession.
What are your plans after Navy retirement? I’m looking at administrative, teaching, and clinical positions in Surgery and in the Emergency Room. Time will tell.
The most important thing in your life? My family, without a doubt. Lisa has been so supportive of my career and has had to bear the burden of deployments. I really owe her all the credit. She’s raised our boys, all the while practicing medicine. I don’t know how she manages all she does. Marrying her was the best decision I made in life. Her family is equally outstanding. My family provides amazing joy. We’re looking forward to June when our first grandchild will be born.
When you’re not working? I love going to Notre Dame for football games and enjoy running and golfing. I like surgical and sports art and collect local artists, as well. I have a passion for sports cards and coin collecting.