TROY — Jerry McGlothen had contemplated a possible career change but it didn’t happen until both of his parents died of respiratory diseases within a five-year stretch.
That decision led to a 35-year career in respiratory therapy, working bedside with patients and providing public education. For the last 22 years, McGlothen directed the cardiopulmonary department at Upper Valley Medical Center before retirement this month.
His father died of lung cancer in 1975, his mother of emphysema in 1980.
Both were taken at age 64, tragedies that drew their son away from 11 years at Goodyear in St. Marys to studies in respiratory therapy. His first job was at Lima Memorial Hospital followed by Parkview Hospital in Fort Wayne.
When a position directing respiratory therapy opened in 1993 at UVMC, the St. Marys resident was interested, and selected, starting in January 1994 as director over both cardiopulmonary and the sleep lab.
“I never had a puff off a cigarette. I hated cigarette smoke as long as I remember. That is why I give talks when I can, give smoking cessation classes,” McGlothen said. “I hope I have done enough to help people breathe in my years as a bedside respiratory therapist or leading respiratory therapists.”
The career change was the best decision he ever made, and was done with the full support of his wife, Berta, McGlothen said. “It opened a lot of doors for me.”
McGlothen said he leaves UVMC with the best staff he’s ever had, a combination of seasoned and younger professionals. “My head rests pretty comfortably on a pillow at night knowing the people I have in here,” he said.
Forty-year UVMC employee Bonnie Garber has served as his “right arm” over the years, McGlothen said.
He was out in the community frequently as part of the hospital speakers’ bureau talking about smoking-related topics and sleep disorders. While others might dread public speaking, McGlothen said he enjoys sharing information with people.
That sharing has extended beyond his job over the years to presentations on travels he and Berta have made first to Italy and more recently to Ireland. They have visited Italy every two years since 2001.
“We just love everything about Italy. It is not just a place to go and visit. It is a way of life – the culture, the food, the wine, the architecture,” he said. “When we go there, we find more things we want to see, places we want to visit.”
Not one to be idle, McGlothen said he is interested in everything and reads excessively. He plans to again pursue an interest in trap and skeet shooting, sporting clays, pistol shooting and high powered rifle target shooting.
He enjoys astronomy and telescopes, building one in high school, and has pursued an interest in photography for several years. He plans to spend more time at night observing and engaging in astrophotography with retirement.
An exhibit of his photography of Italy will be at the Troy-Hayner Cultural Center’s art studio through July 8.
“People say you have to stay busy. I have never been bored in my life and I don’t plan on getting bored with retirement,” McGlothen said.