• What We’re Doing Today - J. Charles Garvin, MD, Ophthalmologist, Dog-Breeder and Leader

    J. Charles Garvin, MD, has always loved dogs. In fact, he had once intended to devote his life to their care as a veterinarian. But a family member’s blindness and other considerations along the way led to a distinguished as an ophthalmologist. Now, as he enters retirement this fall, he will undoubtedly be focusing more of his time on “man’s best friend.”

    Winning Best in Show in 1990 with CH Korcula Midnight Star Bret D.
    Winning Best in Show in 1990 with CH Korcula Midnight Star Bret D.

    Dr. Garvin attended Ohio Wesleyan University, where he majored in physics and spent a semester of study and research in nuclear physics and quantum mechanics at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. However, he decided on a career in human medicine and was accepted to the University of Southern California School of Medicine, where he served as president of his student government. It was a heady time in the USC Department of Ophthalmology, as Drs. Stephen Ryan and Ron Smith were beginning to revolutionize the program. Dr. Garvin took an elective rotation with Dr. Don Minkler in ophthalmic pathology and that apparently cinched the deal for him.

    He returned to Ohio for an ophthalmology residency at Ohio State University, where he served as chief resident. It was again an exciting time for ophthalmology, with dramatic advances occurring in cataract surgery, and he decided to focus his career on comprehensive ophthalmology. His leadership talent had already been demonstrated during his formal education, but it was about to become one of his defining accomplishments.

    Dr. Garvin joined a multispecialty group practice at the Frederick C. Smith Clinic in Marion, Ohio. Within five years, he was elected president and medical director of the group and was reelected for 25 one-year terms. He took courses in medical executive management and organization leadership, and became a certified physician executive. When he joined the group, they had 35 physicians, which he helped grow to 75, as well as negotiated the purchase of their office building and the acquisition/merger of Smith Clinic with a large hospital chain. He also managed the newly combined medical staffs when two hospitals in Marion merged and he served as their first chief of staff.

    At home with GCH Korcula Go Grady Cassiopeia
    At home with GCH Korcula Go Grady Cassiopeia.

    Despite a full clinical practice and heavy administrative duties, Dr. Garvin also found time for the third defining feature of his life: his love of dogs. This was actually his first passion, which began in his teens, when he got a Dalmatian for obedience training and showing. His dog became the top-winning female Dalmatian in the country for five years and, at the age of 17, he won the Leonard Brumby Memorial Trophy as international champion junior showman at the Westminster Kennel Club in Madison Square Garden. From then on, the breeding and showing of Dalmatians have consumed most of his free time, even during college, medical school and residency. During medical school, he was president of the Dalmatian Club of Southern California.

    Dr. Garvin and his family have owned and bred 90 Dalmatian American Kennel Club (AKC) Champions, the majority of which were personally handled by him in the show ring. He has bred some of the top winning, producing and record setting Dalmatians in the breeds history. In 1980, he began judging dog shows and has presided at some of the largest and most prestigious shows in the country and abroad.

    Dr. Garvin has demonstrated the same leadership skills in his work with dogs as he has in his medical career. He has been on the board of the Dalmatian Club of America (DCA) since 1981, serving as president 14 times, and is currently its vice president and delegate to the AKC. He has been on the board of the Dalmatian Club of America Foundation since its inception in 1995 and is past president of the organization. In 2001, he became a member of the Board of Directors of the AKC, where he still serves, which changed his life with dogs. Because of a potential conflict of interest, he no longer breeds show dogs or competes personally in the show ring, although his role in the AKC may be even more time consuming than previously.

    His most satisfying, albeit demanding, service currently is with the AKC Canine Health Foundation, the world’s largest nonprofit organization devoted exclusively to funding canine health research. Dr. Garvin has been on the board for 13 years and chair for the past five years and is proud to recall a time when his care for human vision and dog health intersected. Research funded by the foundation on congenital stationary night blindness in Briard dogs revealed the same genetic defect as in children with Leber’s congenital amaurosis, which led to the first Food and Drug Administration-approved clinical trial and treatment for genetic disease in humans.

    Winning Best of Breed in 1966 with his first Dalmatian, CH Korcula Salona, CD.
    Winning Best of Breed in 1966 with his first Dalmatian, CH Korcula Salona, CD.

    As if all this is not more than one person can reasonably handle, Dr. Garvin has also been very active in community service, serving as president of the Marion Community Foundation, Marion Investment Trust, Marion Rotary Club and Ohio State University Citizens Council of Marion.

    When asked how he balances such a full life of ophthalmology, dogs and leadership, Dr. Garvin suggests that lessons learned in one area often apply to the others. For example, he observes that “the quest to create a great show dog is similar to the continual striving to perform the perfect cataract operation,” and “the problem-solving algorithms required in governing organizations is similar to paradigms of patient management.”

    Dr. Garvin and his wife, Lynn, have been married for 46 years and have three adult children and an infant granddaughter. Although he plans to retire from ophthalmology this fall, it is obvious that “retirement” for him will be in name only.