Friends speak with reverence of late Mayo Clinic doctor David Utz
Mayo Clinic urologist Dr. David Utz took a seat at the patient's bedside and put his hand on her arm as he prepared to deliver bad news.
"And you could see the tension and the fear and the sense of vulnerability just suddenly begin to drain out of this woman, almost as if there was a physical transfer of that to Dr. Utz," said Dr. Walt Wilson, a Mayo internal medicine and infectious disease specialist.
Utz died Oct. 30 in Arizona, where he had spent two decades. He and his wife, Ginny, were at Mayo's Arizona campus since the beginning, and they opened the Virginia Nehring Utz Clinical Skills Laboratory. Wilson said he watched Utz in awe the first time he'd ever met the man.
"It was an emotional scene for the woman, because she got news that obviously she was going to die," Wilson said. "But he gave it to her in such a way that it was almost as if she was uplifted by this news and by the physical touch and his presence."
Many who knew Utz speak of him with reverence.
David Lebedoff knew Utz because both served as University of Minnesota regents.
"He would be the best possible model I can think of as a regent," Lebedoff said.
No one has ever had a better grasp of the role of a board member, he said. Utz didn't try to run the institution, but instead to hire people who could run it and then instill policy to guide those people.
Utz had strong opinions. But he listened intently to other views.
"He was a very good man, and his goodness showed, and so when he spoke people respected what he had to say," Lebedoff said.
Mayo otolaryngologist Dr. Bryan Neel said he got to know Utz, who preceded him as treasurer of the American College of Surgeons. The two were in different specialties, but occasionally still worked together on cases.
"He was one of the best known urologists worldwide," Neel said. Outside of medicine, Neel said, Utz loved to hunt, fish and golf.
But it was his open love for his wife and children that shone through, especially during gatherings at Spider Lake in Hayward, Wis.
"I've known Dr. Utz for a long time, he was my mentor," said Dr. Mike Blute, a past chairman of the Mayo Rochester urology department and current department chairman at the University of Massachusetts.
"There's no doubt he's a giant in urology, in terms of his contributions to the field, the advances that were made in uro-radiology," Blute said, calling Utz a "consummate Mayo Clinic surgeon" who was never overwhelmed by difficult urologic cancers.
"In the operating room he instinctively knew what to do, and the patients turned out well," Blute said. It's the 5 percent of surgical sub-specialty situations that can't be written about or predicted that "separates the great surgeons in this field from everybody else, and Dave Utz was a consummate Mayo Clinic surgeon in that regard."
His son, Rochester attorney Mark Utz, said people note his father's contributions, such as "the everyday practice Dad pioneered that has become the protocol for all surgical practices … all surgical patients being X-rayed in the post-surgical room to be certain all foreign body items (sponges, surgical tools) are not left in the patient."
But his family members simply remember him as "serving as the best dad and husband."