MOUNT VERNON — Thursday, Dec. 30, 2010, marked the end of an era in Mount Vernon when Dr. James Risko officially retired from his service at Knox Community Hospital and Mid-Ohio Corporate Care. Honored at a reception by KCH employees on Wednesday, Risko has enjoyed a 37-year tenure as local surgeon and occupational medicine specialist.
Born in Cleveland and raised in Pennsylvania, Risko earned his undergraduate degree from Penn State University in 1962 and graduated from the Temple University School of Medicine in 1966. An internship followed at Akron General Hospital through 1967. He then served two years in the U.S. Navy, 1st Marine Division, earning a commendation medal for his service during the Vietnam War in October 1968.
“It was a good experience,” said Risko, of his time serving in the Navy. He then completed his residency work at York Hospital in 1973.
In July 1973, Knox Surgical Specialists welcomed Risko to its staff, joining Drs. Richard Smythe and Robert Westerheide. During his time in Mount Vernon, he earned membership in the American College of Surgery and the American Medical Association while performing gall bladder, breast, intestinal, hernia and appendix surgeries. He would eventually be initiated into the American College of Surgeons, the world’s largest organization of surgeons.
In looking at the advancements and improvements he has seen over the years, Risko said, “As a surgeon, I think the greatest advancement is the technology which has allowed us to perform outpatient procedures, which were formerly inpatient, such as laproscopy and breast treatment.”
Risko worked as a surgeon until 2003 when he shifted his practice to medical director at Mid-Ohio Corporate Care because of skyrocketing malpractice premiums. It was a smooth transition which worked well for him. He told the News he has since enjoyed a less stressful environment.
And his stresses may be even fewer now as he kicked off the new year in retirement mode — a decision he has seen coming for some time.
“I pretty much had decided this at the beginning of this year,” said Risko. “My contract had been extended and has now run out. It’s now time to do some other stuff.”
And that “other stuff” should keep him occupied as well, as Risko stated he plans to play golf, travel with his wife, Georgene, spend time with his grandchildren, and work in his yard and garden.
“My philosophy is once I make a decision, I don’t look back. I’ve had about two years to think about this,” said Risko. “As far as my patients, somebody will take care of them.
“I’ve enjoyed working in a small town, getting to know the patients,” said Risko in reflecting on his years working in Mount Vernon. “I’ve made a lot of friends here. And I like that.”