Gustave Gavis, MD
Retired Physician, 88
Gustave Gavis, MD, FAAP, FAAA, of Monticello passed away in the emergency room at Catskill Regional Hospital on Wednesday, March 31, 2010 at 10:36 p.m. He died of congestive heart failure. With him at the time were his daughter, Dr. Wendy A. Gavis-Lainjo, his son-in-law Goddard S. Lainjo, MD, of Middletown, NY, his sister Mrs. Inge Gavis-Katz of West Palm Beach, FL, and Ms. Eva Hutchins, LPN, who was taking care of him at the time at his home in Monticello.
Dr. Gavis came to Sullivan County in 1957 from Brooklyn, NY, with his wife Helen and baby daughter, Wendy. He was the county’s first pediatrician and quickly became one of the most beloved and respected doctors. He eventually opened his own office at 410 Broadway in Monticello, where he remained in practice well into the 1990s. With his health slowly deteriorating, he retired in about 1998. Dr. Gavis was board certified in pediatrics, allergy, and immunology. In his later professional years, he switched entirely to an allergy practice.
Among his many local accomplishments are the following: Founding member of Sullivan County Headstart (1966), co-founder of the Sullivan County Public Health Services, and founding member of the (once) new Community General hospital in Harris, later Catskill Regional Hospital. For years he was school health physician for Monticello and Tri-Valley Central Schools. He was also the public health officer for Bethel, NY, during the first Woodstock festival in 1969. It was his responsibility, among other duties, to set up the medical tents that can be seen in the movie “Woodstock.” From 1970 to 1976, Drs. Gavis, Tsai and Rodrigues formed the Catskill Pediatric Group, PC. Starting in the late 1970s, Dr. Gavis began working for New York State DOCS (Department of Correctional Services) first as regional health services director, and later, as full-time Director of Medical Care Standards for the prisons in New York State.
While still in private practice, Dr. Gavis was appointed Assistant and then Associate Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at Columbia University, Presbyterian Medical Center, (Babies Hospital) Department of Pediatrics/Allergy in New York City. He served in this capacity for approximately 35 years teaching third and fourth year medical students.
Dr. Gavis’ work has been published in a number of peer reviewed journals, among them the Journal of Infectious Diseases (“Prolonged Incubation Period of AIDS in Intravenous Drug Abusers: Epidemiological Evidence in Prison Inmates”), and the Annals of Internal Medicine (“AIDS in Male Prisoners”). His research experiences include the collection of data for Albert Sabin, MD (famous for the Sabin vaccine) on the Caribbean island of Saba. It was Dr. Gavis who first informed Dr. Sabin of the island’s inbred population, a criterion that was essential to the research.
Dr. Gavis was born in 1922 in Vienna, Austria. He fled with his family in 1938 on an overnight, clandestine journey that took him through Holland to the United States; he was 16 years old at the time. In 1943, he was drafted into the U.S. Army, becoming an officer in the Translation section (Italian and German) at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. Medicine, however, was his dream. Without benefit of a high school diploma, and with virtually no formal English lessons, he was able to master English (spoken and written), attend Indiana University (Bloomington) and graduated in two years (1946-48) with a B.S. in Chemistry. In 1948, he entered medical school at what is today SUNY Downstate in Brooklyn, NY. He eventually became chief resident in Pediatrics at Kings County Hospital.
The past six years were especially difficult for him. In addition to diabetes, he struggled through spinal surgeries, a triple bypass, pancreatitis, pemphagus vulgaris, and finally, congestive heart failure. With each horrible illness, he would persevere, struggling to find hope with a new medicine, a new treatment, even a new doctor always pushing forward, hoping (and sometimes succeeding) to find a way out of his discomfort. He almost never lost heart, but the past few months were quite a lot for him to bear. He died suddenly when his heart stopped pumping.
Dr. Gavis is my father, my greatest teacher, and my hero. There are no words to express how much I and the many, many others whose lives he touched will miss him. Our loss is too deep and traumatic.
Funeral services were held at the Joseph N. Garlick Funeral Home, 388 Broadway, in Monticello, NY, on Wednesday, April 7. Burial followed at the Wellwood Cemetery on Wellwood Ave. in Pine Lawn, NY (Long Island).
In lieu of flowers, please consider a contribution to either the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., a wildlife or animal welfare organization of your choice (local or national/international), or to any organization promoting peace, tolerance, education, or medical assistance.
Funeral arrangements are under the direction of the Joseph N. Garlick Funeral Home of Monticello, for further service details, please visit www.josephngarlick funeralhome.com.