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Dr. Leu Retiring After 37 Years as G’ville Family Physician

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After 37 years of practice in Garrettsville, Dr. Leu will be hanging up his stethoscope on March 31st.

Garrettsville – On Saturday, March 31, 2012, Dr. Sang Ming Leu, MD will put in his last day as a family physician in his adopted hometown. After 37 years in practice at Garrettsville Family Medicine, Dr. Leu and his wife, Su, will retire to sunshine, golf and swimming pools in a senior community near Laguna Beach, California.
An open house will be held from noon to 2 p.m. March 31 at the family practice located at 8307 Windham Street (Sky Plaza) so the community can say goodbye to Dr. Leu and welcome Armelle Jemmy-Nouafo, MD, who will assume the care of Dr. Leu’s patients, starting April 2. Dr. Jemmy-Nouafo earned her medical degree from Medical College of Ohio in Toledo, and completed her residency in family medicine at Oakwood Hospital in Dearborn, Michigan.
As Dr. Leu reflects on the past nearly four decades, he says it feels like it was “almost yesterday” that he came to the United States from Taipei, Taiwan as a 30-year-old med school graduate.
“I did not expect to stay here,” he recalls. “I had grown up in the mountains of the Taiwanese countryside, where my father was a laborer. I was expected to go to school until about the fifth grade, and then go to work. But my uncle didn’t want me to stay there and become a laborer too. He sent me to the city to live with my aunt. There I got a good education and graduated from medical school in Taipei.”
After serving two years in the Taiwanese Army at the veterans hospital, Dr. Leu thought it would be an adventure to go to the U.S. for an internship, then return to his home country.
“There was a shortage of doctors in America at that time, so we were welcome to come and stay,” Dr. Leu remembers. After interning at Fairview Hospital in 1973, Dr. Leu completed a residency at St. Mary’s Hospital in Waterbury, Connecticut the following year. He completed his residency at Robinson Memorial Hospital in 1975.
At that time, another Taiwanese doctor — Dr. Hung — had his family practice at Garrettsville Family Medicine. But he was moving to Washington after just two years here, so he offered the practice to Dr. Leu. The rest, as they say, is history. Dr. Leu was Garrettsville’s sole family physician for many years. Although there are now three family practices in town, Dr. Leu retained an independent solo practice until four years ago, when he became part of the University Hospitals network.
“This is where I got to be an old-fashioned country doctor,” says Dr. Leu. “Garrettsville has a small-town atmosphere where people are nice and friendly. This became our home, where we raised our three children (James, Steve and Nancy). I have been here more than half of my life.”
Dr. Leu experienced a turning point in 1997, when he suffered serious injuries from a head-on collision along State Route 88 on his way back from the hospital in Ravenna. Both of his legs were in casts from multiple fractures, and he developed a subdural hematoma (a collection of blood on the surface of the brain) weeks later. Surgeons had to drill into Dr. Leu’s skull to drain the fluids. It took more than a month for him to recover.
“This accident was a major event in my life,”says Dr. Leu. “I’m lucky I’m still alive today. And when a doctor becomes a patient, he becomes a better doctor… a more compassionate human being.”
Ultimately, as Dr. Leu reviews his long and steady career in the small village of Garrettsville, he feels grateful. “This community has always supported me and trusted me. As a foreigner, I felt I needed to work harder to earn people’s trust. I do that by treating everyone like they’re family, as my father had advised me long ago. He was right.”