After working side by side for decades, pair of Enloe doctors honored together
When the victim of a serious accident is delivered to Enloe Medical Center, either via the hospital’s FlightCare helicopter or an ambulance, surgeons and emergency physicians work closely together to treat the injured patient. It’s in that setting—not on committees, not socially—that Dr. Jeffrey Lobosky, a neurosurgeon, and Dr. William Voelker, an emergency medicine specialist, really know each other.
“Bill and I have worked together for 30 years; we’ve been through the wars together for sure,” Lobosky said. “We’ve worked side by side for a long time, even before we had a trauma center, so we were able to see this go from a small community hospital with an emergency room to a regional, referring, Level II trauma center. We’ve been through that growing process and suffered all the growing pains together.”
Lobosky and Voelker are recipients of the 2014 Physician Legacy Award, with which Enloe has recognized preeminent Chico doctors since 2004. Three times over the past decade, including this year, the selectors on the Medical Executive Committee deadlocked, with their tie vote resulting in dual honorees.
Along with providing a high level of patient care, Lobosky and Voelker’s involvement in their respective, related departments—Neuro-Trauma Surgical Intensive Care and Emergency Services—has helped the hospital expand and evolve.
“Dr. Lobosky and Dr. Voelker have truly created a legacy in their combined 61 years of membership on the Enloe medical staff,” said Dr. Marcia Nelson, vice president of medical affairs. “Our community has greatly benefited from their involvement in trauma care.”
Nelson also praises Lobosky for championing bike safety through the Heads Up project, providing helmets to children, and Voelker for bringing “a new level of expertise to the area’s emergency services, which includes the FlightCare helicopter.”
Voelker, a Bay Area native, came to the North State in 1980 after completing one of the few residency programs that existed for emergency medicine, at Geisinger Medical Center in Pennsylvania.
He started off working at Feather River Hospital in Paradise but soon added shifts at Enloe, Oroville Hospital and St. Elizabeth Community Hospital in Red Bluff. The next year he became the first board-certified emergency physician between Sacramento and the Oregon border; by 1983 he’d joined the Enloe ER full-time.
By becoming a physician, Voelker followed in his father’s footsteps. But paternal influence doesn’t stop there. Voelker’s father, a veteran of the Air Force, would take him as a boy to see the Blue Angels flying out of Moffett Field. “There’s nothing like six giant F-4 Phantoms rocking the earth going over you that doesn’t light your fire and make you go, ‘I want to do that, I want to do that!’” Voelker said. But, with the Vietnam War still underway as he graduated high school, going to college—then into medicine—seemed like a better path.
After he settled down in the North State, he learned of a program enabling only one physician in the Navy Reserves to attend Flight Surgery School in Florida. Its graduates fly a minimum of 40 hours annually.
Voelker applied; he got rejected. He applied the next year; got rejected. Undeterred, he joined the Navy Reserves in 1993, underwent training with Marines at the desert base in Twentynine Palms—“17 days of hell,” he calls it—and was subsequently approved for the flight training, which he completed in 1995.
Over the next two decades, Voelker flew over 700 sorties in 18 different types of aircraft among 27 Navy squadrons. His service took him to Norway and into exercises with Navy SEALs. He holds the rank of Navy captain.
“I do believe I experienced one of the best careers possible in the U.S. Navy,” Voelker said.
Meanwhile, he just wrapped up his career at Enloe, where he served as chair of the Emergency Department for the past 12 years. His final shift ended at 2 a.m. on Dec. 16, the day he received his Physician Legacy Award.
“It is a great honor to be so recognized by the medical staff,” he said, “and I do appreciate it since over the years it often seems you’re toiling in anonymity and futility.”
Lobosky, too, says he appreciates the recognition from his peers: “I’m really humbled when I think of the other physicians that are deserving of this award, and so it’s an honor that I really cherish.”
Born in the Chicago area and raised in East Los Angeles, Lobosky blazed a new trail in his family by going to college and becoming a doctor—the career he wanted from age 11, after a sports injury exposed him to a hospital emergency room.
He got his pre-med degree from the University of Notre Dame, medical degree from UC Irvine and neurosurgery training at the University of Iowa. Encouraged by his wife, he visited Chico, where he’s practiced since 1984 despite the temptation of academic positions.
“I really love teaching,” he said, “but we’ve set our roots here, made our friends here, raised our kids here. The community’s been good to me. At the end of the day, we just decided that the prestige of the university was not enough to pull us away from the people and place that we love.”
Locally, Lobosky has been active in hospital leadership, serving as medical director of Enloe’s Neuro-Trauma Surgical ICU since 1991, two terms as department chair for Orthopedic Surgery/Neurosurgery/Podiatry and currently as a member of the hospital’s governing body, the board of trustees. His involvement extends to national organizations, namely the American Association of Neurological Surgeons and the Congress of Neurological Surgeons.
As for academia, Lobosky is an associate clinical professor at UC San Francisco and regularly teaches at Chico State. He lectures about medicine, and also on the health care system, following publication of his 2012 book, It’s Enough to Make You Sick. That treatise, he feels, may prove his biggest legacy.
“I feel I’ve done my part, and when I’m dead and gone, my grandkids will know I at least tried to make a difference.”