Program offers former Wichita mayor, doctor chance to recreate a special memory

WICHITA, Kansas – Dr. James Donnell will celebrate his 88th birthday on Thursday and today he got an early birthday gift of sorts.

Donnell served two terms as Wichita mayor in the 1970s, as well as serving as a doctor at Via Christi for decades.

While at Via Christi, Donnell was instrumental in creating the hospitals residency program.

Donnell is currently battling Lewy Body Dementia, which affects muscle function and memory.

Donnell has been a resident at the Glen Carr House in Derby for about two years.

Since June, they’ve offered the Remember To Dream program for one of it’s residents every month, and this month it was Donnell’s turn.

Donnell had two requests, one to visit a city council meeting, the other was to come back to his old stomping grounds at Via Christi.

“Because this was something that was a very big part of Dr. Donnell’s life, we are just recreating those memories for him,” said Teressa Hatfield, the Life Enrichment Coordinator at the Glen Carr House.

Armed with his stethoscope and lab coat, it was just like old times for Donnell.

Along the way, he received recognition from Mayor Jeff Longwell, honoring Donnell’s two terms as mayor.

Donnell also got to reconnect with former coworkers and friends.

Dr. Antonio Osio, the very first resident in the residency program Donnell started at the hospital in 1971, helped navigate Donnell through the halls of the hospital.

Osio and Donnell made the rounds to visit patients, just like they had decades before.

“It was wonderful, he was a gentleman, he was not only a good person but a good educator,” said Dr. Osio.

The experience was also meaningful for Donnell’s family members who followed him every step of the way.

“It was very very nice, it was very memorable to my father, a man that has had an amazing life and career,” said Tom Donnell, Donnell’s son.

Coincidentally, today’s event also took place on National Make Your Dream Come True day.


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