John M. Heath, M.D. '83
After his graduation from Gannon University and Hahnemann Medical School’s accelerated 6-year BS-MD program in 1983, Dr. John Heath found his niche back in the classroom, this time as a teacher.
Dr. Heath received his Bachelors of Science from Gannon University and directly entered Hahnemann Medical School, now Drexel University School of Medicine, upon his graduation. He credits much of his preparedness for medical school to Gannon, stating that although his coursework was very much science focused, he gained an appreciation for the course requirements in religion and rhetoric later in his career. Highlighting the intensity of the Gannon/Hahnemann partnership, Dr. Heath adds “I’m grateful for the confidence someone had that a 19-year-old could handle med school.”
After finishing his education in Philadelphia, Dr. Heath moved back to Erie to complete his residency training at St. Vincent Health Center. He recalls working with outstanding physicians there, such as Peter Kroemer and Jack Yakish ‘81. As a young intern, he viewed them as true “giants” of family medicine.
While completing his residency, Dr. Heath developed a passion for geriatric medicine, which at the time was just beginning to become formally recognized as a specialty in the United States.
Dr. Heath entered a post-doctorate, two-year fellowship training period as the first geriatric medicine fellow at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center after his time at St. Vincent. In 1988, he formally became one of the first fellowship-trained geriatricians in the nation.
Rather than taking a position as a practicing physician, Dr. Heath was able to give back in another way: serving as a professor to upcoming medical students at the State University of New York Upstate Medical University in Syracuse.
In 1996, after serving on the faculty at SUNY Upstate Medical University for eight years, Dr. Heath and his wife Cathy, a fellow physician and previous med school classmate, moved to New Jersey to be closer to her family. In New Jersey, they both joined the medical school faculty at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, now part of Rutgers.
After achieving tenure and serving as a medical school professor for 15 years, Dr. Heath says he began to look into practicing medicine. “[I] began to wonder if I could ‘walk the talk’- could I actually practice the type of medicine that I had been teaching?”
In 2011, he left his full-time academic role to join Summit Medical Group, a physician-owned multi-specialty provider in New Jersey. Here, he accepted a position as their first geriatric physician and created the department of geriatric services.
As the current geriatric medical director, Dr. Heath leads a team of a dozen other geriatricians and advance practice nurses who assist older adults transitioning across care settings from ambulatory care to hospital and home visits, with a special focus on providing subacute care.
In 2016, Summit Medical Group became part of a multi-state Next Generation Accountable Care Organization (nextGen ACO), making their work critical for effective population health management.
Dr. Heath currently resides in New Jersey with his wife Cathy. The couple recently celebrated their 33rd wedding anniversary in May 2016. They have three children: Brendan, a law student at George Washington University; Austin, a doctoral student in ancient philosophy at Oxford University; and Claire, a music major and harpist at the Sunderman Music Conservatory of Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania.