For Dick Pantalone ’70, life has been a search for engaging and rewarding experiences. After spending his years at Gilmour enamored with the inspiring stories of Dr. Albert Schweitzer and Dr. Tom Dooley, Dick decided to dedicate his life to the service of the world’s most disadvantaged populations.
Pantalone has always been a goal-oriented person, and following his graduation from Dartmouth College, he attended the University of Pittsburgh Medical School with an eye toward one day having his own mission hospital overseas. Over the course of his career, Pantalone has practiced medicine in South Africa; Haiti; Ethiopia; Pittsburgh; and Rhinelander, Wisconsin.
Pantalone spent a great deal of time as a general surgeon, and loved the challenges the range of experiences presented. “Over the course of my career, I’ve done everything from delivering babies, setting fractures, everything but neurosurgery. I always liked being a generalist; I call it the liberal arts in medicine.”
Ultimately, though, he decided to specialize in hand surgery, a rare move for a general surgeon. He used this knowledge to treat leprosy patients in Ethiopia. “The ingenuity of reconstructive surgery has always been a draw for me. With most forms of general surgery, you’re just taking something out of the body, but with reconstructive surgery, there is so much complexity and rehab afterward.”
In particular, Pantalone has always appreciated the stripped-down nature of mission medicine. “Using your head, heart and hand, you can do so much with not much. I enjoy working with resource-stressed environments, where all you have is a good nurse, a Swiss army knife, and some baling twine.”
Over the course of his career, Pantalone has worked in places that he has described as oases in seas of chaos. “When I was in Haiti, it seemed like there were revolutions every few weeks or months, but our hospital was a sacrosanct area, and our work continued.”
He recalls returning numerous times to his hospital in South Africa with his wife and walking along the shores of the Indian Ocean.
“We decided one day that we should call ourselves ‘The Luckies,’ given the experiences we’ve had the opportunity to share. And I can’t do anything else but be grateful.”