Dr. John Cooney finds the practice of medicine rewarding because he enjoys caring for people and making a difference in their lives. Currently, he is working in Ludington where he started his concentration in family medicine in 1995 and remained for five years. When there was a need and an opening at Memorial’s facility in Hart, he took his practice there from 2000 until 2014, and many in the Oceana County area know him from that time and followed him when he returned to Ludington.
Cooney was born in Chicago and raised in Elmhurst, Ill. In high school he played football and ran track, graduating in 1984 and going on to attend Illinois Benedictine College, where he played a year of tennis and ran track his senior year. He received a bachelor of science degree in biology in 1988.
“When I was in college, I was thinking of marine biology, but my junior year, we had to do a training scuba dive. I did a dive in a mucky lake in Wisconsin at the end of March, and we had to go down 50 feet. I had this idea that it would be clear water. but when we got down 50 feet, I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face and found that I was claustrophobic.” Taken with the fact that a lot of the work was research-based, and not a Jacques Cousteau adventure, this experience clinched his ultimate career decision and guided him toward a profession where he cares for people instead of doing research.
With his new plan in mind, Cooney attended the Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine (now Midwestern University), graduated there in 1992, and then did a year of internship and a two-year residency at the medical school there. The school had two hospitals when he was there, one in Hyde Park and another in Olympia Fields, and he rotated between them.
He also was able to do outside rotations. Cooney’s grandparents had bought a vacation home in Ludington in 1963, so he had been coming to the area since he was a baby, both in the summer for the beaches and lakes, and also in the winter for cross country skiing and other winter activities. So, he came to Ludington to work with Drs. Persson and Avedisian, and later Dr. Tim O’Callaghan, and started his family practice at Memorial Medical Center in Ludington.
When he moved to Ludington, Cooney was single, but he was set up on a blind date with Lisa Fellows in August 1995. They were invited by friends to go on a canoeing trip, and started dating after that. Within a year, they were engaged, and were married June 20, 1997 at St. Simon Catholic Church in Ludington. He reports, “I bought the family vacation home in 1995. I joke that people think I’m not a local, but I think I am since I’ve really been here my entire life.” Lisa worked at the Ludington hospital in information services for many years, and then in information technology for her last several years there.
The couple had three children. Their oldest, Joshua, is finishing a master’s degree in business and sports management at Defiance College in Ohio. One daughter, Caroline, went to dental hygiene school at Baker College in Detroit, graduated last May, and has now moved back to Ludington where she is working for Dr. Ruby at Forest Hills Family Dentistry. Their youngest daughter, Sophia, is currently a freshman at Alma College. They all played soccer in high school, and Joshua also played in college, while Sophia is currently on the team at Alma.
Cooney’s wife, Lisa, is now retired, but Cooney says he has no plans for his own retirement while they still have kids in college. His current work as medical director at Mercy Health Ludington Physicians Partners, Sable Point Family Care, keeps him busy, and he enjoys the work.
Asked about the effect of Covid on his practice, he observes, “It has been a huge impact and an ever changing atmosphere. Early on, we were doing a lot of virtual medicine and trying to keep people home and out of the offices. Now, we’ve opened things up, but we still have to screen patients prior to appointments, and depending on their care, act accordingly. We’ve had many patients with the whole gambit of mild symptoms and severe symptoms, hospitalizations and death, and we’ve seen some with prolonged symptoms.”
He further comments that while virtual practice definitely has its place, it is limited depending on what symptoms or problems the patient has. It works well for follow-ups that don’t need a hands-on exam, like if a patient has depression and the doctor just needs to check in on progress, and a blood pressure check can be handled virtually if the patient has a cuff and can do it at home. But he adds, “In our area, internet connections vary depending on where patients are. As technology improves, I think virtual medicine will continue to be an option, but there is no way to improve on a face-to-face visit. I might be old-fashioned in that regard, but I find that a majority of people still prefer meeting face-to-face.”
In addition to his practice with Mercy, Cooney is the assistant medical director at Oakview Medical Care, serves on the Lakeshore Hospital Advisory Board and is on active staff at the hospital there, though he does not perform inpatient care. In his somewhat limited free time, he has played old-time baseball for the Ludington Mariners at White Pine Village for many years. “I enjoy all sports and outdoor activities,” he says, “though right now, with all my work duties, my biggest thing is taking the dog for hikes in the state park.” He also plays hockey in a pick-up league once a week on Thursdays at West Shore Community College.
Cooney’s family has enjoyed some traveling over the years. When the kids were younger, the Mariners played in a lot of different Michigan cities, and the family would go along and visit historic and other sites, making a weekend vacation out of those trips. In the summers, he had an annual family medical conference on Mackinac Island and brought the family on those occasions as well. He chuckles as he says, “Once the kids got active in sports, that changed our vacationing. Then it was usually just over spring break, often to Florida, where my sister lived for many years, and later when she moved to Washington D.C., we went there a few times.”
Cooney says he sometimes misses the Chicago area and the big city, its restaurants and other activities. Growing up his family had season tickets to Chicago Bears games and also went to see the Chicago Cubs. Since he moved to Ludington, he and his wife and kids have visited his mom and dad in the Chicago area, his older brother in Lake Zurich and friends he grew up with in Elmhurst. However, his dad passed away four years ago, and his mom just moved to Ludington in August, where she lives at Sherman Manor and loves it. His sister also moved to town and now works at Floracraft.
“We still try to get back there,” Cooney says, “But I feel like I grew up in this community and love it, and I never plan on leaving.”