2 Doctors Retire After Combined 100 Years of Caring For Garden Isle Families
Wilcox Health is celebrating two doctors who provided a combined 100 years of health care for Garden Isle families have retired.
Drs. Monty Downs and Roger Netzer began their medical careers on Kaua‘i in the 1970s. Netzer retired April 7 and plans to volunteer for projects and organizations working for the community. Downs retired April 17 and will take on the role of medical director for Kaua‘i Hospice as of May 1.
Netzer, who earned his medical degree from the University of Michigan, started working in 1973 for what was then the Kaua‘i Medical Group. He became the island’s first ear, nose and throat specialist.
“When I started, there were 35,000 people on Kaua‘i,” Netzer said in a press release. “There were no traffic lights. The medicine … it was mostly contracted medicine with the plantations.”
He said in the release that the Wilcox family always did its best to ensure he had what he needed to provide the best care possible.
During his 50-year career as an otolaryngologist, Netzer also served as chief of surgery at Wilcox Medical Center and chairman of the Hawai‘i Medical Board. He has also been a member of several national organizations, including being a fellow of the American Academy of Otolaryngology and Head and Neck Surgery.
Many of his patients say Netzer made sure to take time for them, no matter how busy he was.
“You knew people and patients became your family members,” Netzer said in the press release. “So, I always wanted to be kind and felt I wasn’t doing a good job if I didn’t answer all their questions and fully explain everything that was being done.”
Downs is a familiar face for patients in the Wilcox Emergency Department. He has practiced medicine on Kauaʻi since 1972 and joined Wilcox two years before emergency medicine was even recognized as a specialty.
“In the mid-’70s, our job was to know a lot about a lot of things,” said Downs in the press release. “We may not know as much as each specialist but, for example, we know a lot about someone with chest pain or a pregnant woman with a stomachache. We could get things going and call on specialists if needed.”
Downs in 1982 became the first board-certified emergency room physician on Kaua‘i. He recalled the moment his team shifted from paper charts to a computer and how technology has changed and improved patient care.
Beyond his work as a physician, Downs and his wife, Elaine, also donate to Wilcox, according to the press release. Their gift helped pay to renovate exam rooms in the new Emergency Department, which is slated to be completed next month. He said giving helps offset the mentally and physically exhausting work of emergency shifts.
“You have to maintain an attitude of really appreciating being a part of peoples’ lives,” he said in the release. “We see life at its most vulnerable state.”
Many also remember Downs for his musical skills. When he wasn’t busy, the doctor would often play guitar and harmonica for Emergency Department patients and, more recently, at the Wilcox Medical Center COVID-19 vaccine clinic.
According to the release, Downs is also a fixture in other areas of the community. He is an officer of the Kaua‘i Lifeguard Association and a team physician for Kapaʻa High School’s football team.