Dr. John D. Stoeckle, of Lexington, MA, passed away from COVID-19 illness on April 23, 2020, at age 97.
A first-generation American raised in Sturgis, MI, he manifested his Midwest family’s values of hard work, intellectual curiosity and service to others. After undergraduate years at Antioch College and Oberlin, he entered Harvard Medical School in 1944 under the Navy’s V-12 officer training program, interrupting his training for treatment at Saranac Lake Sanitarium, New York, for hospital-acquired tuberculosis.
Following internal medicine residency at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), Dr. Stoeckle served two years as first lieutenant in the Army, stationed at the Pentagon, inspecting bases across the country and observing atomic bomb detonation impacts in Mercury, Nevada. He returned to MGH, where he devoted his career to improving access to medical care for all in need.
He pioneered shared decisioning making with patients and medical professionals, a model that became incorporated into standard medical practice. He served as Chief of Medical Clinics, where he both practiced and taught, and was promoted to Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, teaching new physicians “plain doctoring” and the value and skill involved in interviewing patients.
With his colleagues, Dr. Stoeckle established MGH’s first teaching group practice in 1972. He helped establish the CambridgePort Clinic and other efforts offering community-based healthcare. His research focused on the social aspects of medical care systems and the doctor-patient relationship. He was proudest of two books he co-authored, The Clinical Encounter, a guide to interviewing and case presentation, which is still assigned reading in medical schools, and Plain Pictures of Plain Doctoring, a profile of medical care during The Great Depression with curated photographs.
He was recognized as Internist of the Year by the American College of Physicians in 2000. That same year, MGH created the John D. Stoeckle Center for Primary Care Innovation to commemorate his half-century commitment to improving the quality and delivery of primary medical care.
Not surprisingly, John’s call to service involved his family. Colleagues would gather at his home in Winchester for dinner and wide ranging discussions of socialized medicine. His children were invited to carry his medical bag during weekend hospital visits to MGH and house calls around Boston. With four boys, he had many opportunities to pass along his skills in catching small wildlife. He promoted the idea that you can figure it out yourself and tolerated the damage caused by figuring it out. We will miss his effervescent “greetings and salutations” and his kindness.
John Stoeckle was preceded in death by his wife, Alice Augusta Young Stoeckle, in 2010, blessed by 62 years of marriage; and by his brother Dr. Harry Stoeckle, his sister Theoda Wilson and his twin Janet Doepel. John leaves behind four sons, Peter (Muskegon, Michigan), Mark (New York City, New York), Philip (Warsaw, Poland) and Andrew (Wellesley, Massachusetts), two daughters-in-law (Cathy and Rebecca), seven grandchildren (Jonathan, Jacquelyn, James, Kate, Will, Nellie and Natalia) and two great-grandchildren so far (Julian and Alice).
A funeral service for immediate family was hosted by the Parish of the Epiphany (Winchester, Massachusetts) with cremation and interment of ashes next to his wife Alice at Wildwood Cemetery. You may share thoughts and memories with the family at https://johndstoeckle.family.
The Stoeckle family requests that memorial gifts in his name be given to any organization that looks after families and individuals in need of health care or Mass General Hospital’s John D. Stoeckle Center for Primary Care Innovation online at http://giving.massgeneral.