Kanellakes hanging up his stethoscope
By Cindy Wojdyla Cain firstname.lastname@example.org September 28, 2012 7:06PM
Dr. Theodore Kanellakes, who has been an allergist in Joliet for 37 years, will retire this week as seen in the Allergy and Asthma Clinic Thursday, Sept. 27, 2012, at 229 N. Hammes Ave. in Joliet. He has also served in many leadership roles in the community. | Matthew Grotto~Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 15, 2013 1:39PM
Fifty-two years ago, a Greek immigrant sat his son down in a booth at the family’s Harvey diner for a talk that would change the course of the teen’s life.
Theodore Kanellakes had been partying in high school and his grades were sub-par. His dad, Milton Kanellakes, was not happy. He laid out his son’s options after he graduated from high school: He could attend community college. He could pay his own way to go away to a four-year school. The final option was to move out of the house the day after graduation and get a lunch bucket and a job or join the Army.
“I knew my dad — he meant business,” Kanellakes said.
Which option did Kanellakes choose? I met with the 70-year-old doctor on Friday as the allergist worked his last day at his office at 229 Hammes Ave. in Joliet before retirement. Kanellakes told me he chose community college where he quickly made the honor roll and excelled in his studies, so much so that Milton Kanellakes paid for his son to go away to school his sophomore year.
Kanellakes graduated from the University of Wisconsin and Loyola University medical school. In 1975, he came to work as an allergist in Joliet and he’s been here ever since, caring for patients, working to improve the community and getting involved in medical issues at the local, state and national levels.
Kanellakes, who co-hosted a local radio show called “Doctor’s Call” from 1976 to 1999, spearheaded the effort to establish the Will-Grundy Medical Clinic for the uninsured and underinsured when he served as president of the Will-Grundy Medical Society in the 1980s.
He led lobbying efforts for malpractice reforms in Illinois. And he served on American Medical Association boards to take part in discussions about health care reform.
While national health care reforms aren’t perfect, they’re a step in the right direction, Kanellakes said.
“We’re always going to have indigent people here, we’re always going to have poor people,” he said. “We have to address it.”
Kanellakes told me the story of a young man who had no insurance but he was suffering from asthma. Kanellakes treated him as the man married, had kids and got better jobs and finally had insurance. All along, the patient thanked Kanellakes for his assistance.
“Those are the things that are most gratifying,” Kanellakes said. “This is what makes you become a physician.”
Kanellakes also showed me a card from a longtime patient who thanked the doctor “for treating me like a sister/friend and not just another number.”
As he looks back on all the decades of work, Kanellakes is grateful for the opportunity his parents, the late Helen and Milton, gave him, especially the tough talk from his dad. Kanellakes has no plans to leave town now that he’s retired. He wants to volunteer more time at the free medical clinic, play some golf and stay involved in the Joliet community.
“It was a great ride and it’s not over yet,” he said. “I’ve had a great journey. I’ve been blessed.”