Carlos Antonio Dohse, a physician from the Dominican Republic, stayed true to his cultural roots after he moved to the Chicago area and opened a family practice.
Dr. Dohse taught Spanish to his Irish-Scottish wife and the two spoke the language at home while raising five kids. They cooked Dominican food, danced the merengue and often spent summers on the Caribbean island nation.
A few years ago, all 26 members of the Dohse clan, including Dr. Dohse, his wife and their children and grandchildren, took a vacation together at a resort in the Dominican Republic. (Dr. Dohse owned a home there, but they all couldn’t possibly fit.)
“It was just like a huge party with the entire family,” said one of his daughters, Isa Perottino. “We are all very, very close.”
“That’s a big part of the Dominican culture, the closeness of family,” she added. “That was incredibly important to him. His whole purpose in life was making sure we had a strong family.”
On Jan. 5, Dr. Dohse died of cancer at his Elmhurst home with family by his side. He was 86.
Dr. Dohse was born the youngest of six children on Sept. 10, 1925, in Salcedo, a city in the Dominican Republic. His father was a lithographer who was recruited from Germany to work on labels and other products for cigar companies, and his mother was the daughter of Lebanese immigrants who helped run a general store the family owned in Salcedo.
Dr. Dohse pursued a medical degree, graduating from the University of Santo Domingo in 1950. After completing his residency in plastic surgery at a hospital in Montreal, Dr. Dohse returned to the Dominican Republic and worked as one of the country’s first plastic surgeons.
“In his home country there was a big need for plastic surgery,” Perottino said. “We’re talking about the 1950s, so there was not a lot of pregnancy awareness and care and vitamins. Unfortunately there were children and people who were suffering with terrible deformities.”
After performing surgery on a family member of Rafael Trujillo, the country’s longstanding dictator, Dr. Dohse was asked to take on official duties as the government’s chief surgeon.
But “it was a very harsh dictatorship,” Perottino said. “He did not want to live under that environment, so he resisted and found a way to get to Chicago.”
He ended up at St. Anne’s Hospital, formerly on the city’s West Side, where, as a 31-year-old, he met a 16-year-old high school student working part-time.
During their first conversation, he told her he was going to marry her. Though she kept the romance secret for some time, the two wed in 1959 when he was 33 and she was an adult.
The family grew quickly – five kids in five years – and moved from Dr. Dohse’s Chicago apartment to a home in Elmhurst in 1967.
Dr. Dohse switched from surgery to family medicine and opened a doctor’s office on the Southwest Side of Chicago. He simultaneously worked at the nearby St. Anthony Hospital and served mostly Spanish-speaking patients.
“He was a very caring and knowledgeable physician, and that combination really endeared him to his patients. He knew them by name, spoke their language,” said Betty V. Holcomb, a former pharmaceutical representative from Abbott Laboratories. “His commitment to his patients and to the immigrant community was just exemplary.”
“He was a good man,” said Enrique Redondo, a fellow doctor who worked at St. Anthony. “As a doctor, he was a very qualified physician and dedicated to his patients.”
Outside of work, Dr. Dohse loved traveling with his wife, Mary Kathleen, who died in 2005. They visited Italy, Norway, Denmark, Japan, Egypt and Morocco, among other places. He also enjoyed golf and tending to his garden of flowers and fruit trees.
During retirement, Dr. Dohse read vigorously and continued to stay on top of the latest medical news.
“He just didn’t stop,” Perottino said. “He never thought you were done learning.”
Aside from Perottino, he is survived by daughters Kathy Amro and Lina Rojas; sons Tony and Jerry Dohse; and 14 grandchildren.
Services have been held.