Vitu MD, Robert L., Saginaw, Michigan

Dedicated physician, teacher and community builder, faithful Catholic, husband and father, Robert Louis Vitu, MD, passed away at his home on Sunday, January 9, 2011 after a long illness. He was 82 years old. Robert was born in Chicago on June 16, 1928, the second of seven children to Paul J. and Helen R. (Schoen) Vitu. Robert married Josephine D. Bychowski on December 27, 1952, who survives him. Bob received his entire formal education in Chicago-area Catholic schools. He obtained his Medical Doctor degree from the Stritch School of Medicine at Loyola University of Chicago in 1953 and immediately entered the United States Army. After his military service, he moved his young family to Saginaw and opened a private medical practice in 1956. Dr. Vitu was recognized as a fine and compassionate doctor and especially as an outstanding diagnostician. Dr. Vitu began his medical career as a general physician and surgeon. He found his calling in providing excellent primary care to families and was instrumental in establishing Family Practice as a distinct and important field of medical care during the 1960s and ‘70s. He and other early members of the Michigan Academy of Family Physicians won a landmark case, ultimately argued before the United States Supreme Court, which gave Family Physicians the right to equitable reimbursement from insurance plans and Medicare. Dr. Vitu was the co-author of two published articles: the Report from the Joint National Commission of the Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure (Archives of Internal Medicine, 1980) and the Report of the National Institutes of Health Consensus Development Conference on Coronary Bypass Surgery (New England Journal of Medicine, 1981). Dr. Vitu cared deeply about the training of new Family Practice physicians. He was a member of the faculty of the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine and a preceptor in the Department of Family Practice at Synergy Medical Alliance. He served on the board of the Saginaw County Medical Society Foundation and worked to increase the endowment for its medical student scholarship program. Dr. Vitu believed that the physician’s mind was the most powerful, cost-effective and under-utilized tool available and encouraged his students to use theirs before ordering expensive tests. As a community builder, Dr. Vitu’s efforts were many, fruitful and well-recognized. He was a long-term member of the medical staff of the three area hospitals, serving twice at St. Mary’s as Chief of Staff and in other leadership positions. He served as the medical director for St. Francis Home and St. Vincent Home for many years. He was active at the local, state, and national level in the medical society and the Academy of Family Physicians, serving as president of the Michigan Academy in 1973. He was a board member of the Saginaw County Red Cross, City of Saginaw Human Relations Commission, Saginaw Diocese Human Relations Commission and Community Affairs Department, and St. Stephen School Board. Dr. Vitu was named Michigan Family Physician of the Year in 1981 and was nominated as an American Family Physician of the Year in 1982 by Good Housekeeping Magazine. He received the Saginaw Cooperative Hospitals Medical Excellence Fund Faculty Award in 1999. He was named four times as the Outstanding Educator in Family Practice from Synergy Medical Alliance and was recognized as its Outstanding Volunteer Physician Educator in 2002 and 2003. He was a recipient of the Spirit of St. Vincent Award in 2003 from St. Mary’s of Michigan, and was given the Michigan Academy of Family Practice Lifetime Achievement Award in 2004. In 2007, the Michigan State Medical Society honored him with the Community Service Award for his work at the Naseau Clinic at the East Side Soup Kitchen. In November 2010 he received special recognition from the Saginaw County Board of Commissioners acknowledging his several years of service as a board member of the Saginaw County Commission on Aging. Bob was a faithful Catholic and servant of the poor. He prayed the rosary daily. He worked for civil rights and was a life member of the NAACP. He brought medical care to the migrant farmer’s camps throughout the Saginaw Valley, often bringing his wife and children along, and sometimes taking a migrant child or two back to his home when closer observation was needed. In 2003 he made a medical mission to Haiti, which he considered a highlight of his medical career. He kept regular weekly hours seeing patients at the Naseau Clinic until 2009. He was a member along with his family at St. Thomas Aquinas Church; a member of the Saginaw Serra Club, Knights of Columbus 4232 and Saginaw Club. Dr. Vitu leaves many colleagues, students, patients and friends whose society greatly enriched his life and to whom his family wishes to express gratitude. In addition to his wife of 58 years, Josephine, he is survived by his seven children, Robert, Jr. and Kathy Vitu of Saginaw, Mary Jo and Tim Hurley of Bryan TX, Kit and Neil Carey of Post Falls ID, David Vitu of St. Charles, MI, Thomas and Kimberly Vitu of Rochester Hills, MI, Tim Vitu of Saginaw, and Elizabeth Vitu of Portland OR. Grandchildren and great-grandchildren who will mourn his loss and cherish his memory include Robert Louis Vitu III, Daniel P. Vitu, Lauren E. Vitu, Samuel K. Vitu; Matt and Rebecca Hurley Figg and and their daughter Meredith of Austin TX; and John and Kathryn Hurley Shirley and their children Joseph and Emily of Bryan TX; Kristen A. Carey and Alex G. Carey of Post Falls ID; David A. Vitu, Jr. and Phoebe A. Vitu of Vassar; Madelyn M. Vitu and Kaley E. Vitu of Rochester Hills and Hannah M. Vitu, of Saginaw. His surviving siblings and their spouses are Jerry and Joan Vitu of Los Altos, CA; Lory and Bob Behler of Pinellas Park, FL; Joe and Joni Vitu of Northbrook, IL; and Edward and Suzanne Vitu of Libertyville, IL. He was predeceased by his brother Paul J. Vitu, Jr. and sister Mary Jensen. He also leaves his brothers-in-law Bill and Mary Bychowski of Geneva IL, Jim Bychowski of Harwood Heights, IL, and Donald Jensen of Vero Beach, Florida, many nieces, nephews and other relatives. Funeral Liturgy will take place 10:30 a.m. Friday, January 14, 2011 at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church. Rev. Fr. Randy Kelly will officiate. Burial will take place in St. Andrew Cemetery with Military Services conducted by American Legion Post #439. Friends may call at The Snow Funeral Home, 3775 N. Center Road, (between Shattuck and McCarty), where the family will be present on Thursday from 2:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. and on Friday at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church from 9:30 a.m. until time of Mass. The Knights of Columbus Council #4232 will pray the Rosary at 3:00 p.m. Thursday and a Vigil Service will take place at 7:00 p.m. Thursday at the funeral home. Those planning an expression of sympathy may wish to consider memorials to the East Side Soup Kitchen, P.O. Box 330, Saginaw, MI 48606; Saginaw County Medical Society Foundation, 350 St. Andrews Road, Suite 242, Saginaw, MI 48638; or to St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church, 5376 State St., Saginaw, MI 48603.