Longtime Palatka doctor remembered for compassion for patients, dedication to profession
Palatka Dr. E. David Risch, a well-known Palatka medical professional, died of cancer Friday. He was 76 years old.
Risch was an orthopedic surgeon who worked in Palatka and St. Augustine. Risch opened his practice in Palatka in 1980 and saw patients up until 15 days before he died.
Risch, born in Stevensville, Mich., was in the Air Force Academy’s sixth graduating class in 1964. After earning a medical degree from the University of Colorado in 1969, he completed his internship at Denver General Hospital and residency at University of Colorado Medical Center in 1971. Risch served in Vietnam as a general surgery adviser from 1971 to 1972.
Jeanne Howton was an office administrator who worked with Risch since the early 2000s. She said he was a great person who liked to help people.
“He worked with the Boy Scouts. He worked with United Way and the Rotary Club,” Howton said. “He made about three trips over to Haiti.”
Risch was a member of Rotary International for 34 years and a founding member of Rotary Club of Palatka Sunrise. He was also a former president of United Way of Putnam County, and on the boards of the Putnam Chamber of Commerce, Capital City Bank, St. Anastasia Catholic Church, Knights of Columbus and the Putnam First Cancer Fund.
Howton said Risch was integral to performing operations for patients referred from Flagler Hospital free clinic.
“Basically, if they had somebody in the Emergency Room and they needed orthopedic follow up and they didn’t have insurance, then they would set them up with Dr. Risch and the orthopedic clinic,” Howton said.
Dr. Michael Michaels is a retired urologist whose practice was in Palatka. Michaels said he arrived in Palatka six years before Risch.
“He was always there for his patients and very knowledgeable,” Michaels said. “He was a real gentleman, and he will be dearly missed by his colleagues.”
Dr. Anand Kuruvilla, a radiation oncologist at the Cancer Center of Putnam, was close with Risch. He said Risch impacted many Putnam County families and Palatka was blessed to have him.
“He was incredibly brave with his cancer diagnosis. Throughout all this he continued to work,” Kuruvilla said. “He saved a lot of lives (in Vietnam). He was just a good man.”
Erin Bowen said she worked with Risch as a secretary for about 10 years. She said Risch was the most caring and humble physician she ever met.
“He was the first physician I ever worked with, and he taught me everything about the medical field I know. The most important thing he taught me was how much he loved his patients,” Bowen said. “He loved his patients as if they were family.”
Bowen said Risch bravely fought cancer and it didn’t deter the compassion he showed his patients.
“It never affected who he was or how he treated his patients. He was just amazing,” Bowen said. “I saw on Facebook it was a continuous feed of how much he loved his patients. This was his home.”
A funeral mass will be celebrated 2 p.m. Wednesday at St. Anastasia Catholic Church in St. Augustine. Inurnment will follow in the church columbarium, and the family will receive friends in the church fellowship hall following the services. In lieu of flowers, the family asked to send donations to St. Anastasia Catholic Church or the Putnam First Cancer Fund.