PAGE – Dr. Michael Joseph Demangone knew he was not going to succeed as a great, big game hunter when the Keisling family took him elk hunting near Flagstaff.
“I bagged my first and last elk with the Keislings,” Demangone said as he reminisced about the many fond memories of living in northern Arizona. “I realized that I wasn’t going to be a great elk hunter after that.”
Demangone, 54, says he was a bit shy with the rifle he used to make a kill. But it was not until field dressing the game he noticed the smell of the elk.
“Then when the meat finally came, it kind of smelled like that so I never really ate it,” he admitted. “I gave it all away.”
For 25 years, Demangone made memories like this here. Now, he and his family are making their way home to the Keystone State, to be closer to family and relatives. Demangone’s last day as a family physician at Encompass Health Services on 463 South Lake Powell Boulevard was yesterday (May 1). But not to worry, he will be practicing emergency medicine at Page Hospital and in Phoenix.
“Then within the next few years, I’ll be finding a job back in Pennsylvania,” explained Demangone, who came to Lake Powell Country more than two decades ago when he was training to be a physician at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, where his journey to the West started from humble beginnings.
Jefferson Medical College – renamed to Sidney Kimmel Medical College in June 2014 – is one of the best medical schools in the country, according to U.S. News and World Report.
“That’s actually where I got started in coming out West,” Demangone said, “because you could do some rotations out on (Native American lands) or within the Indian Health Service. So, during medical school, I did a pediatrics rotation in Kayenta, Arizona.”
The third year of medical school is composed of core rotations, or required clerkships, in which students apply the classroom knowledge acquired during their first and second years as a medical student to clinical experience. Demangone has also completed a rotation in Anchorage, Alaska.
“Of course, when I went to Kayenta, that was the first time a little Pennsylvania boy had been out of the woods – in the green,” Demangone said. “I’ve never seen this area. It was really striking, (scilicet), the contrast, the blue skies, the sunny days, the Navajo culture–– I think I had a Native American Church up on the hill, right above where I was staying in Kayenta. They had ceremonies, (which) was a whole new experience for me.”
Pennsylvania is where Demangone did all of his schooling and medical training. He is also an alumnus of Penn State University in State College, Pennsylvania.
“And I spent a year in Gallup, New Mexico, right before coming to Page where I learned a little bit more obstetrics,” he said.
Demangone is recognized as the community’s obstetrician, an occupation that he did for 13 years here before changing specialties. He says he has delivered around 1,000 babies.
“Something like that – amazing experience,” Demangone said. “I did that in my first 13 years here. It was from 1993 to 2006. I always look back on that fondly. How can’t you love bringing a new life into the world?”
Demangone says practicing obstetrics was 90 percent fun and 10 percent scary because there were times when he had to deliver a baby right away. And obstetrics is that way.
“But amazing experience,” he said. “Of course, now, I’ve got 25-year-olds out in the community. So, it’s interesting when you see the babies you’ve delivered having their own kids now. So, I’m like a grandfather.”
Demangone has been around medical professionals all his life. So, choosing medicine as a career was perhaps a no-brainer.
His mother was an emergency nurse and his uncle was a general surgeon – both of whom he looked up to as a child.
“And my family doctor (the late Dr. Harold Homet Chadwick from Mercur, Wysox Township, Pennsylvania) growing up,” Demangone said. “(Chadwick) gave me all my shots. I always looked up to him thinking I’d like to be a doctor like him. Maybe he did the best to inspire me because I became a family doctor, kind of similar to what he did.”
Demangone says it has been a wonderful experience living in Page, where he and his wife, Karen Fox Demangone, grew up and started a family.
The Demangones have two adult children, Marisa Lynn Demangone, 22, and Michael Richard Demangone, 20. Marisa will be graduating from Lebanon Valley College in Annville, Pennsylvania, this year.
Michael is an undergraduate at Arizona State University where he is studying global health, liberal arts and sciences.
“I’m just grateful for the time I’ve had,” Michael J. Demangone said. “And the experience, and the patients putting their trust in me. I never took that lightly. I’ve always felt very responsible to make sure each and every patient had a good diagnosis and try to keep it safe.”
And Demangone would do it all over again. One of the big things he has learned practicing medicine in a small town, he says, is who is sick: Who can he treat and send home; who is sick that he can treat in Page; and who is too sick to stay in Page.
“I got really good at getting people out of town quick if they needed to be,” he said. “So, you kind of learn triage skills really well in Page because you’re kind of remote and your resources are a little limited. So, you had to get really good at stabilizing people and figuring out who can you handle and who you need to ship off. You had to become good with a crisp decision-making.”
Demangone says he has a lot of thanks to give. First off, to Joe Wright, CEO of Encompass, for giving him the opportunity to be the medical director at Encompass for the last seven years.
“And to all my patients, to all the staff here at Encompass – awesome to work with,” he added. “I came here 25 years ago, doing a little bit of everything. I raised my family here – a nice, safe, small-town environment.”
Wright says Demangone has been an icon in this community and his departure is going to be a gigantic loss to the city of Page.
“You just don’t replace somebody that’s been in a community that long overnight,” Wright said. “Just like everything else, we’re going to get through the (departure) of Dr. Demangone.”