Obituary: Dr. David Utz, renowned Mayo Clinic urologist

  • Article by: BOB VON STERNBERG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 3, 2011 - 8:51 PM

His patients included celebrities and heads of state. Ronald Reagan was perhaps the most famous of all.

David Utz

David C. Utz was a physician who treated heads of state and Hollywood celebrities, but those aren't the patients who are lodged in his son's memory.

"He treated every patient the same," William Utz recalled. "I remember when I was about 6, he took me to along to visit a little girl about my age, one of his patients, who was suffering from renal failure. He brought her a birthday present before she died."

David Utz, 87, a renowned urologist and surgeon who held an array of positions at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, died on Sunday at his winter home in Scottsdale, Ariz.

"He was great in heart and that was manifested by his kindness," William Utz said. Of that long-ago kindness to the little girl, "Reagan would have nodded his head and smiled," he said.

Ronald Reagan was perhaps the most famous of Utz's patients. He led the surgical team at Mayo in 1987 that performed prostate surgery on the president and removed intestinal polyps.

Billy Graham, Supreme Court justices and movie stars numbered among Utz's other well-known patients, "He treated all of these celebrities over the years, but he never checked his patients' IDs," said his son, also a urologist.

"I remember one time when I was a teenager and one of the [Supreme Court] justices was having surgery and [then-Chief Justice] Warren Burger was sitting at the dining room table. He said enough of them were here that they had a quorum and could hear cases."

A native of Rochester, Utz was one of three sons of a Mayo Clinic comptroller, all of whom became physicians.

He received his medical degree from the St. Louis University School of Medicine and an advanced degree in urology from the University of Minnesota, which he served as a member of the Board of Regents between 1973 and 1979.

A visiting professor at several medical centers across the country, he served as executive secretary of the American Board of Urology.

During his tenure at Mayo, Utz served as president of staff and chair of the clinic's urology department. The author of 143 publications during his career, he was appointed a member of the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland.

The clinic praised him as a pioneer, citing his first-ever performance of a type of prostate surgery that formed the basis of the world's largest surgical prostate surgery database. "That was probably his greatest achievement, the granddaddy of all he did," Utz's son said. "He was a surgeon so he was always sure of himself, but he wasn't a braggart. His motto was the pursuit of greatness, as something you pursue, but never achieve."

Upon his retirement in 1988, Utz and his late wife, Virginia, set up a winter home in Scottsdale, where they oversaw the opening of Mayo's Virginia Nehring Utz Clinical Skills Laboratory.

He also is survived by sons David C. Utz Jr. of Vail, Colo., Mark E. Utz of Rochester, Minn., and Jeffrey P. Utz of Chatham, N.J., daughter Mary U. Keating, of St. Cloud, brother Philip Utz, 15 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Visitation will be held at 5 p.m. Friday at the Church of St. John the Evangelist in Rochester, with services held there at noon Saturday.

Bob von Sternberg • 612-673-7184

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