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WOOSTER – A longtime Cleveland Clinic physician may have chosen his career path as early as elementary school as a student at the former Beall Avenue School.
When he called himself Dr. Frank Cebul on some of his school work, his teacher had to remind him, “You are not your father.”
But by seventh grade, Frank Cebul III, son of the well-known and well-respected local surgeon Frank Cebul, was quite certain that would be the name he would carry as he aspired to be a physician.
After roughly 40 years of service in medicine, Dr. Cebul retired this summer and can proudly look back on a long and successful career.
The younger Cebul, called Frankie to distinguish him from his dad, became absorbed in the sciences, particularly biology and chemistry. He recalled particularly enjoying dissecting frogs and learning about the human anatomy.
Knowing a prospective doctor had to be at the top of the class to get into medical school didn’t bother Cebul.
“I loved school,” he said, and was “a nerd, I guess.” If 15 math problems were assigned, “I’d look ahead and do a few more.” During the summer, “I would just read.”
Letter to the editor:Local family physician thanks patients ahead retirement
Graduated from Davidson College, North Carolina
After graduating from Davidson College in North Carolina, a school he chose in part to become acquainted with a different part of the country, Cebul headed to medical school at Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine and became part of its second medical school graduating class in 1981.
He took advice from others, ranging from a taxi driver who effectively talked him out of Middlebury College because Vermont was often “dark and gray,” to his dad, who cautioned him about becoming a doctor because it would be a “hard life” and one he needed to make sure he loved. Cebul was motivated to weigh his options carefully, analyzing personal experience as well.
In medical school, a rotation in surgery showed him it was probably not the discipline for which he was most suited.
Watching an operation from “up against the wall” made him think, “It looks like a pretty boring way to spend the day.”
Wright State’s strong family medicine department, enhanced by its commitment to training primary care physicians and focusing on underserved areas, struck a chord with Cebul.
“I liked the fact you had a lot of interaction with patients,” he said, a feature combined with the appeal of the diversity of a primary care practice.
Began his career in Wooster as an ‘old-fashioned doctor (with) a dream job in a wonderful area’
Following a residency at Riverside Methodist Hospital, where Cebul became the chief resident in his third year, he began his career in Wooster as an “old-fashioned doctor (with) a dream job in a wonderful area.”
As a 28-year-old, he began building a practice through the vacancy left by Dr. Burney Huff, a 30-year veteran of Wooster Clinic, which was co-founded by the elder Cebul.
Cebul recognized the goodwill and high level of competency established by his dad were definite advantages.
“My name didn’t hurt me in any way,” he acknowledged.
Cebul called his father “a very good man, my most valued mentor.”
His father stressed to him, “You’re here as a service to the patient.”
Cebul cited “drastic changes” over the course of his career, which at the outset encompassed “cradle to grave.”
He did it all, from newborn to elderly care, tackling just about every ailment and emergency treatment.
With the rise of specialties, physicians assistants, nurse practitioners, hospitalists and changes in the way insurance pays for services rendered, even his title changed — primary care provider.
But, he said, science groomed him for change.
It isn’t “onerous,” he said. “If it bothers you, you aren’t going to make it.”
Wooster Clinic’s 1998 merger with Cleveland presents a change for Cebul
One of the changes was Wooster Clinic’s 1998 merger with Cleveland Clinic, which Cebul described as “a progressive institution” and “cutting edge.”
The main frustration in his career was a recent one, coinciding with the COVID-19 pandemic and “the failure of society to get on board and really care about public health,” he said.
While Cebul is able to leave behind the long hours and stress, he already misses his patients, co-workers and “feeling needed.”
Colleagues noted the void he has left.
“He has been a stalwart of the community forever,” Dr. Dennis Davis said, having grown up in Wooster and carried on the Cebul legacy.
“No one cares more about his patients than he did,” Davis said, pointing out Cebul’s willingness to pitch in wherever he was needed and to be on call.
“He was just always there,” said Davis, adding, “I never heard a mean word from him.”
“In my mind, he is a picture of what a physician should be,” Davis said, with all of the positive attributes, such as dedication to his craft and staying on top of new developments.
“He cared about outcomes for his patients and his fellow physicians,” Davis said. “He never took the easy way out” and set an example people wanted to follow.
“Both his patients and our practice will miss him greatly,” said another doctor, William Lago. “Dr. Cebul is an excellent physician. He truly cared about his patients and co-workers.
“He was always willing to go the extra mile for the people he cared for, had a vast medical knowledge and truly was a role model for all of us as physicians to aspire to,” Largo said.
Kathy Landes said she and her husband, Ken, were Dr. Cebul’s patients for more than 30 years.
“(We) have always found him to be compassionate, considerate and willing to spend time with us,” she said.
“We feel he has provided us with excellent advice for any and all of our medical concerns and we shall greatly miss him being our medical doctor.”
As his patients look for a new doctor, he will be a “really hard act to follow,” Davis said.
Cebul is looking forward to more time with his wife, Linda, a retired registered nurse; sons Mark, a physical therapist, and Paul, who operates a coffee importing business; daughter Cathy, a teacher; and his grandchildren.