McMaster University

McMaster University

MacOrtho Remembers Dr. Lachowski (Nov. 3, 1954 - Nov. 27, 2014)

Published: December 3, 2014

It is with heartfelt sadness that we inform you that Dr. Richard Lachowski passed away the early morning of November 27th, 2014. As a beloved surgeon and member of our community, we feel the profound loss of his presence in our lives. He was foremost a loving husband and father and we share in his family’s loss. Please click here to read more about Dr. Lachowski.

 
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Dr. Mohit Bhandari Remembers Richard Lachowski

 

Prologue
There are few moments in your life that transform your lens on the world—and more importantly, your purpose. I remember one such day vividly—with every detail. The year was 1993. I was finishing my second year as a medical student at the University of Toronto and about to meet a surgeon at the Hamilton General Hospital to inquire about a summer elective. It was an uncomfortably warm day. My 3 piece suit (with a vest and tie) may have been a huge mistake. The meeting was set for 3pm or so, but I had arrived at 10am (for some odd reason thinking my usual drive from Toronto to Hamilton, normally 50 minutes, would somehow require 6 hours). I was very nervous to meet this surgeon—I didn’t know him, in fact, I didn’t even know what he looked like but something was telling me this was going to change my life and Hamilton would somehow be a big part of my future. At 2:55pm, I walked into his 4th floor office on Victoria Avenue and was greeted with a smile. “You must be Mohit! Dr. Lachowski will be out in a minute”, Linda Mclean smiled. I smiled and sat down. I noticed the calm of the office. It was a pink colour. I thought nothing of it back then, but having recently read Adam Alter’s “Drunk Tank Pink” now realize this was deliberate. Pink has historically been the colour known to calm nerves, research says. No wonder, a profusely sweating 23 year old medical student with an “off season” 1980’s suit would feel calm about meeting the surgeon who would inevitably change his life…forever. At 3:01 pm, I heard the door open and a voice utter, “Hello Mohit, I’m Richard Lachowksi, come in”.

He Had Me at Hello:

In that moment, from his reassuring smile, to his firm handshake, to his suit and tie, to the feeling of warmth I felt in his office, I knew my life would forever be changed by this incredible gentleman. He stepped out for a moment to get me a water (I think he thought I was melting). I looked around and noticed a lot of pictures; pictures of his wife, Lori, and young children. Every photograph was placed perfectly in the office that you could always see her from any vantage point. I didn’t think much of it then, but now realize that none of this was by accident. Dr. Lachowski asked me how I found him as there were really no elective students coming from Toronto those days. I remember telling him, I looked in the phone book and found the names of orthopaedic surgeons in Hamilton. I remember seeing his name somehow knowing I wanted to meet him (again, what appeared haphazard, was absolutely happening the way it was meant to be). We spoke about University of Toronto and Dr. Lachowski beamed with pride remembering his days in Toronto. And so it was done. I was his elective student from Toronto. He was so talented, so admired, and so hard-working. My parents, within the first few month, knew him as the “Great Dr. Lachowski” because I would only talk about him and what had happened each day. As luck would have it, I also witnessed the fruits of his tireless mentorship of residents and fellows including Edmundo Berumen, Paul Moroz, Pervez Ali, Mark Ginty and Lou Sanders—to name but a few shining examples of that time.

Then it Happened:

It was a sense of sadness (how was this possible in only a few summer months in 1993) that my elective was coming to an end. I remember telling Dr. Lachowski, I was in “awe” (I said exactly that) of him and wished this elective was not over. I told him, that before the summer, I wasn’t entirely sure where I was supposed to be, but I knew I wanted to be an orthopaedic surgeon. My vision of my life was transformed in 8 weeks—and I would not be here today, writing this reflection had I not had the privilege of meeting Richard Lachowski and wanting so badly, to follow in his example. True to his mentorship, Dr. Lachowski said, “Mohit, it doesn’t have to end. Why don’t you come work with me anytime you’re in town visiting your family?”. I took that literally, and for the next 1.5 years spent every call (as many as I could) with Dr. Lachowski—just smiling, working hard, and watching him. He was a master, not only in surgery, but in his patience for teaching students, his support of faculty, and his adoration of his wife, Lori, and children, Christopher and Angela. There were many times he would drive mehome to my east mountain home at 3am to save my father from picking me up.

Epilogue

There hasn’t been a day in the past 5 months, that I haven’t paused for a moment to think about Richard Lachowski. Curious, though, that he comes into my mind at points during my day where I face a small challenge -almost always related to some issue of “time”—a tradeoff between work or playing with my 7 old year old, Kaya, or between sitting at the table and enjoying a dinner with family or answering my cell phone. The only wealth we have is “time”. I am reminded now, more than ever, as I carry the memory of Richard Lachowski in my heart, for the rest of the time I have on this earth.

mohit_bhandari

Dr. Brett Dunlop Remembers Richard Lachowski

 

When I remember Rick Lachowski I think of a man who truly loved his family, considered his colleagues and students as friends and treated all of his friends as extended members of his family.

When I think about Rick's work and hobbies the word "metiiculous" comes to mind. Perfection wasn't the goal, it was the starting point. His patients benefitted- whether he was implanting a new joint, fixing a crushed pelvis or painstakingly reconstructing a shattered os calcis.

I had the opportunity of observing the construction progress of a deck Rick was building on his boathouse. Each board was installed as a piece of art - I would expect nothing less. Rick was a craftsman.
Perfect.

Brett_Dunlop

Dr. Brad Petrisor Remembers Richard Lachowski

 

Aside from being an exceptional surgeon, I remember attending a Journal Club at Dr. Lachowski’s house years ago as a resident. We had just finished a delicious Beef Wellington while discussing the papers.

Before leaving, his son played a piano piece that he himself had composed. The family had gathered around the piano and we had all joined. After the song was over and we had left for the evening, I vividly remember the look of pride that filled his eyes of his son and his family.

As I reflect today about Richard Lachowski, that snapshot I carry with me from that particular evening has confirmed for me the importance of maintaining work/life balance.

brad_petrisor

Dr. Louis Saunders Remembers Richard Lachowski

 
I had the privilege of training under Dr Lachowski as a resident. He was always very patient and understanding. Aside from excellent instruction, the main take home principal was that his family came first. Often, he would be a few minutes late for clinic indicating he stayed to have breakfast with his family. Residents should keep this philosophy in mind!
Louis_Saunders

Dr. Jaydeep Moro Remembers Richard Lachowski

 

Richard Lachowski was a special mentor in my career and life. He taught me principles of patient care and was meticulous in the OR. Always up for a challenge, he impressed upon me that I truly can do anything - at work or in my personal life.

I recall when I was a resident and he hosted journal club at his home. Unexpectedly, I arrived at his home quite early. None of the other residents were there. He and his wife, Lori, never skipped a beat. They welcomed me in their home and introduced me to their children, Christopher and Angela. The children toured me around their home and showed me their pet chinchilla. Richard and Lori were warm and inviting and truly gracious hosts. As residents, we enjoyed the journal club discussions, but truthfully, we looked forward to the gourmet meal they prepared!

Over the years, it was my honour to work with Richard as a colleague at St. Joseph's Healthcare. He was always supportive of me and my endeavours. One weekend evening, early on in my career, I was struggling with a subtrochanteric femur fracture. After some significant time, I decided to call my colleagues for help. Richard was the only one home that night and he answered the phone. He, without further thought, postponed his dinner plans with Lori to come to the OR to help me out. There was only support in his actions and words in the OR and never a complaint about his foiled evening.

For me, Richard epitomized the definition of a gentleman. Although, I will truly miss him, I will carry forward the life and work lessons he taught me.

Thank you Richard for all the great memories. You will always be in my heart.

Jaydeep_Moro

Dr. Paul Moroz Remembers Richard Lachowski

 

I was honored when Richard Lachowski asked me if I would be interested in spending a year as his fellow in arthroplasty and orthopedic trauma at the Hamilton General Hospital in 1994/1995 following my orthopedic residency. It was a great year of learning joint replacement surgery all day, and trauma all night. I can still hear Richard’s “grandfatherly voice” (he wasn't after all that much older than me but he had this certain tone) after I screwed something up and he would say: “Now, Paul…there’s a better way to do that” as he fixed up my mistake. But his voice would never be vile or demeaning, and it was always hushed so no one else could hear. He didn't need to embarrass me to teach me master surgery. To this day I try to be like this with my own residents and fellows. Richard Lachowski was a mentor’s mentor.

And while a few people would occasionally say Richard took too long in the operating room I have never seen anyone literally put back together an incredibly shattered calcaneous or acetabulum like Richard could. He was truly a superb craftsman with his hands.

Another recollection of Richard was a time in the “bad days” of the early 1990’s where occasionally there might be no resident coverage at night at the Hamilton General Hospital, the trauma center for the region. The staff-man had to take all the pages and even calls from the hospital floor. One night a little old lady with a fractured hip would have sudden shortness of breath and Richard himself would come into the General to assess her at 3 am, in shirt and tie but also with serious case of “bed-head”, according to the nurses. At least Richard had a nice crop of hair, unlike myself.

I must say that I regret not working harder to keep more in touch with Richard over the last few years, but his phone was always open and if 5 years went by between calls it was great because it was like we had talked yesterday. My sincerest condolences to Lori, Christopher and Angela at the loss of their husband and father. I will miss my friend and mentor.

Paul Moroz,
Lachowski Fellow 1994/1995

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Dr. Michelle Ghert Remembers Richard Lachowski

 
"His polite and gentlemanly manner"
Dr. Michelle Ghert

Dr. Kevin Chan Remembers Richard Lachowksi

 

Dr Lachowski was a skilled surgeon and wonderful gentleman. I had the pleasure of working directly with him for over 3 months. During this time, he taught me orthopaedics, how to operate, and how to make a killer smoked salmon vodka pasta sauce. He will be truly missed.

Thank-you for everything Dr Lachowski.

Kevin_Chan

Dr. Moin Khan Remembers Richard Lachowski

 

“Always do your best, learn something from every procedure you do - so your next one is even better” - Dr. Lachowski

Dr. Lachowski was always interested in innovation and new technology - I remember when the iPhone came out with Siri voice recognition I showed it to Dr. Lachowski and he thought it was pretty cool. Next time I saw him after a few rotations he said “Moin I have something to show you … I got an iPhone too! The voice recognition is great… I sent texts to my family and friends!”

Moin_Khan

Dr. Nathan Evaniew Remembers Richard Lachowski

 

Dr. Lachowski truly dedicated his life to helping those around him. His interactions were always characterized by kindness, respect, and enduring care. As a surgeon, he took on the some of the most challenging cases with grace and wisdom, and I remember that time would often stand still while he did his tireless best. We often chuckled that Dr. Lachowski was “lining up the osteons”, but in fact he was reminding us how we ought to look after our patients, eachother, and ourselves. Dr. Lachowski will be be forever loved and always missed.

 

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Dr. Harman Chaudhry Remembers Richard Lachowski

 

I have many memories of Dr. Lachowski, having spent several months with him during my residency. What I remember is a man that was first and foremost a good person. On top of that, he was an excellent surgeon, a committed teacher, and a dedicated family man.

I am sure all residents can echo his passion for teaching. I recall frequently asking naïve questions about the practice of orthopaedics and why things were done in certain ways. However, for Dr. Lachowski, no question was too small. Regardless of what he was doing, he would pause, pull out a pen and piece of paper, and come up with a lesson on the spot. This was Dr. Lachowski—a patient and dedicated teacher, and a true professional in every aspect of his career and life. I learned so much from him, and he will truly be missed.

harman_chaudhry

Dr. Raman Mundi Remembers Richard Lachowski

 
I had the privilege of spending many nights on call with Dr. Lachowski as a junior resident at St. Joseph’s Hospital. Despite the heavy demands of our profession, Dr. Lachowski always embodied the ideals that we as physicians often strive towards—compassion for his patients, patience with his students, perfection in his procedures, and an overall love for orthopaedics. He will be dearly missed.

raman_mundi

Dr. Matthew MacLeod Remembers Richard Lachowski

 

Dr. Lachowski loved to talk about his cottage and his boat "Up North" as he called it. But patient care took precedent over this plans for time off. I recall one occasion where he drove back to Hamilton from Bala during the middle of his vacation to do a revision hip arthroplasty on one of his patients who had fallen at home and suffered a peri-prosthetic fracture.

Matthew_MacLeod

Dr. Clary J. Foote Remembers Richard Lachowski

 

"When you do what you love. Everyone benefits."

"I had to make a tough decision for my family. Usually saying no is harder than yes...I have no regrets because I did it for the right reasons".

"With every patient always do the best job you can".

- Dr. Richard Lachowski

 

Clary_Foote

Dr. Mitch Winemaker Remembers Richard Lachowski

 

Richard .... I will always remember him as a consummate professional. He was an extremely committed and caring person both to patients and the orthopaedic program. He will be deeply missed.

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Dr. Anthony Adili Remembers Richard Lachowski

 

He was a great family man and paid special attention to being a husband, father and friend. This was a key priority for him as he balanced work life with family life. He leaves a legacy of love that is evident in his wife Lori, children Christopher and Angela, family, and friends.

It was the positive experiences I had with him that influenced me to become an orthopaedic surgeon. And like he has influenced me in my practice, he has touched countless other medical students, residents, and staff colleagues – and we are all that much better as physicians because of his influence.

He is a tireless teacher. He was never too tired to help out with a difficult case, and was always willing to freely share his years of experience with you in your effort to deal with a difficult problem. We were all great beneficiaries of his extraordinary teaching skills. Teaching others – whether it be medical students, residents, or staff colleagues - was a role he was comfortable with and one in which he excelled. He did it with style and humility – in keeping with his true character. In short, he was a true gentlemen.

I will sorely miss him, but he will never be forgotten. He will live on in the countless lives he has touched. I will be doing my part to humbly pass on to the students’ I teach the many peals in surgery and in life that he graciously taught me.

We will all miss you Richard – our colleague and friend.

anthony_adili

Dr. Desmond Kwok Remembers Richard Lachowski

 
It is of great sadness to see the passing on of Dr. Richard Lachowski. Rick and I started on the same day in Hamilton back in 1985 as orthopaedic surgeons. We used to share the same office building, worked together in trauma in the Hamilton General, inherited and shared the same practice from Dr. Lofthouse. Even though we do not cross our path too much socially, as we do have diverse interests, but we do have a deep mutual respect professionally and talked about our children often as they are about the same age. My family know very well that when the day comes that I would need a total hip, Rick is the one I am going to go. Rick, we miss you.
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Dr. Benjamin Deheshi Remembers Dr. Lachowski

 

I did not have the pleasure to work with Richard as a surgeon, but I did hear about the legends of Dr. Lachowski from the residents. I heard about his meticulous surgical technique and his attention to detail. I heard about the fact that he would take his time when replacing a joint and do it just right, never rushing. I heard that he always took the time to teach and train residents and students and never got angry and never raised his voice. Those are not common characteristics of an orthopaedic surgeon I thought.

Then I had a chance to meet and spend some time with Dr. Lachowski and his wife, Lori, a couple of years ago at a conference. I soon realized that the legend is true. He was indeed a “Gentleman” in the true sense of the word. We shared a cab to dinner. Dr. Lachowski opened the door for Lori as we left the hotel lobby. He held the cab door open and helped her in. As we finished dinner, we went down to the coat check. He got her coat, held it for her as she put it on and stepped aside like a true gentleman for her to walk up the stairs. It was refreshing to see Chivalry at its best by a true gentleman who behaved like a doting boyfriend who has just fallen in love with his girlfriend. It reminded me and continues to remind me to treasure and prioritize my wife and my family every single day. Richard, you may have been a role model surgeon to many, but you will always be a role model Gentleman to me. Thank you.

ben_deheshi
Please share your memories of Dr. Richard Lachowski at mannanha@mcmaster.ca!

 

 

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