Dr. Gulish going strong 82 years and seven continents later

J. Patrick Eaken

        When Dr. Eugene “Gene” Gulish went to Clay High School in the 1950s, he might have been considered studious to some, a nerd to others. He knows now that is OK.
        Dr. Gulish, banker John S. Szuch (1966 graduate) and attorney Michael P. Dansack, Jr (1978) were inducted by the Clay High Alumni and Friends Association as distinguished alumni at a ceremony held at St. Michael’s Centre in Oregon. They were honored again at Clay Memorial Stadium the following night at a high school football game.
        “It’s been an exciting year waiting for this day to happen. I want to thank, first of all, my three sisters for making me realize that being a nerd isn’t so bad. In addition, I want to thank my wife for putting up with me and my obsessions with ill people for 52 years,” Dr. Gulish said.
        “Matter of fact, all of my classmate who came today to cheer me on — that’s a real honor for me. Some of the classmates I actually operated on and I see that you are still walking. I will never forget this day,” he said.
        Even the nomination came as a surprise to the 82-year-old orthopedic surgeon, who still practices three days a week. A 1955 Clay High School graduate, Dr. Gulish was nominated by Delores Glauser.
        “I did not expect this at all. When Delores came to me and said she wanted to nominate me, I couldn’t understand that — what had I done to be nominated to this distinguished area?” Dr. Gulish said.
        Mission trips and serving his country have been a big part of the surgeon’s career.
        Early in his career, Dr. Gulish realized how much he enjoyed medical mission work. He has traveled many times to a mission hospital in Kolo Ndoto, Tanzania. In 2010, he traveled to Haiti to assist earthquake victims. He traveled on a medical mission trip to Nigeria in June this year.
        “It’s been an incredible adventure — my life, and it started with my realization at Clay High School that I loved to work, and that’s something that I have never stopped doing,” said Dr. Gulish, who crediting several teachers at CHS who inspired him.
        “Besides being an orthopedic surgeon, I am a writer, I am a teacher, a photographer; I keep bees and chickens and cows — and all of that started right here at this school with people who made me realize how much I like to teach, how much I like biology, he said. “It led me to an adventurous life that took me to all seven continents, including mission trips to Africa.
        “I just got back from a mission trip to Nigeria, and I want to thank all of those have made me realize how much I like to work and how much I like to help,” he said.
From Curtice to Los Angeles
        Growing up in Curtice, he lived with his grandmother for six years until she died, and then moved in with his parents and a brother and sister before they added two more children.
        “In addition to having a restaurant they owned a small farm,” Gulish said. “I think I was not the best of farmers in my father’s eyes and he would often say, ‘I know your brother will be a farmer, but I don’t know what you’re going to do.’”
        When Gulish graduated in 1955 from Clay High, he was the first in his family to do so. He attended the University of Michigan, planning to be a high school biology teacher, but decided he’d rather teach at a university.
        He earned a Master’s Degree in Embryology and a Doctor of Medicine Degree from The Ohio State University. He did his internship and residency at LA County-USC Medical Center, and a four-year orthopedic residency followed. He was one of six candidates selected for the residency program out of about 1,000 applicants. It was during this time that he decided to enter private practice.
        “And although, I still, to this day, love to teach, I am obsessed with getting people well orthopedically and, even now, love to see their lives turned around with a new hip or knee that I have replaced or a broken bone which I have fixed,” Gulish said.
        “While in my residency, I met Christina Pallais and did something I had no plans of doing — we got married. Chris is a registered nurse. I met her on the orthopedic ward at Los Angeles County Hospital. We have been married for 51 years and have five children and ten grandchildren,” he said.
        Gulish was drafted into the Army as a Major and was sent to Fort Polk, Louisiana. He was an orthopedic surgeon while there, and operated on many wounded soldiers from the Vietnam War. He received the Army Commendation Medal upon his discharge in 1971.
        “I had a ward of 90 beds,” Dr. Gulish said. “I was often the only trained orthopedic surgeon on the base. The wounded soldiers were returned quickly from Vietnam and, needless to say, I remained very busy during the two years which I was in the military.”
        He started a private practice in Sebastopol, California. About this time, arthroscopic surgery was introduced. He performed the first total knee replacement north of San Francisco and the second total hip replacement.
        “This allowed the orthopedist to do major surgical procedures through a minimally invasive incision,” Gulish said. “Virtually any joint could be arthroscoped — the knee, the hip, the shoulder, the ankle. Procedures which previously would require long incisions and days in the hospital could now be done through a one-centimeter incision as an outpatient. And at the other end of the spectrum, total joint replacement was introduced. This was a major breakthrough for patients with end-stage arthritis of the hip, knee, shoulder, ankle or even the elbow. My practice became busier and busier, and finally a second and third orthopedic surgeon came into town.”
        Gulish moved to Paris, Tennessee, in 1994 because “they were in desperate need of an orthopedic surgeon.”
        “They offered me a free trip to the area,” Dr. Gulish said. “I had no plans on leaving Sebastopol but took them up on the trip. We arrived in Paris and I immediately fell in love with the area and the people. Before we knew it, we were doing what we had no plans on doing — moving to Paris, Tennessee from Sebastopol, California.”
        He has been there ever since and plans to retire this year, although he wonders if that will really happen.
        All of Dr Gulish’s children work in healthcare —  one is an orthopedic surgeon, two are physician’s assistants, one works with autistic children, and one teaches marriage and family therapy on the college level.
        “So, things are generally good,” Dr. Gulish said. “Our children are healthy and, I think, contributing to our society. Our grandchildren are a delight. But our greatest tragedy occurred on Oct. 1, 2017. Our daughter Heather and her husband Sonny were in Las Vegas at the concert where the horrible shooting occurred. Sonny was shot and killed while protecting Heather. He died in her arms. This is a tragedy none of us will ever get over. It is the job of the dad to buffer his children against such grief. But all I can do is grieve with her. We know we will never get over this tragedy, but hopefully will learn to live with it as time goes by.”


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