"They finally got me to quit," says Dr. David Sisler.
It took a heart attack, open heart surgery, cancer and finally a stroke, but Sisler has decided it is time to retire after 60 years service as one of a vanishing breed of general practitioner physicians. Sisler, a founding member of the El Rose Medical Group, has been more than a physician since he landed in Petaluma in 1957. He has been a friend, a neighbor and something of a philosopher, dispensing medical care, good humor and views of politics, sports and life to the thousands of patients he has treated over six decades.
Although family and friends have been urging him to slow down for his own health for the last several years, it was a sudden stroke last month that finally convinced him the time had come to retire to his ranch just west of Petaluma near Helen Putnam Park.
Despite health problems, Sisler maintains, "I have to be he luckiest person I know." He says his luck began very early when he was delivered into this world by his physician father. "I had a very smart and very caring mother," he explains, "and my father was a doctor who really cared. My goal continues to be to be as nice a man as my father."
Sisler had what he calls a "very wonderful high school education," both in the classroom and on the athletic fields. He happily shares how he was a two-way player for the Grand Rapids Braves in Michigan.
"For three years, I played every game and never left the field," he proudly points out.
All three of his brothers wound up in the service during World War II, but the year Sisler graduated from high school the war ended, leaving him free to continue his education at the University of Minnesota.
The way Sisler tells it, he wanted to become a geologist, and couldn't figure out why his classes were so difficult, until someone explained to him that he was enrolled in the pre-med program.
It wasn't all stethoscopes and roses for Sisler, who ran out of money and disappointed his father by turning to the work world for three years, before returning to the University of Minnesota to finish his degree. He graduated from the Minnesota School of Medicine in 1953.
In his second year of medical school, Uncle Sam insisted that Sisler aid in the Korean War effort. That turned out to be a good thing. Not only was he stationed at an Army hospital in Honolulu, but he got married and had two children, starting a family that would grow and grow through the years.
After the Army, Sisler had a short stay in St. Paul before heading to Petaluma. Here, he joined Dr. John Mohrman and began a practice that continued until just last month. Meanwhile, two more children were added to his increasing family.
It was in 1957 that Sisler added what was to become almost a second practice to his career when he was asked to become team doctor for the Petaluma High School football team. So began Sisler's lifelong association with the school. The Petaluma High School Community loved "Doc" Sisler and Sisler loved the Trojans, becoming perhaps their most devoted fan.