Dr. John Dorsey Jr., renowned Lathrup Village pediatrician, dies at 94

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

Dr. John Dorsey, Jr. devoted more than 60 years to treating patients — a role the prominent pediatrician did not want to leave.

Even in his 90s, facing declining health, he continued offering consultations.

“He was just a curious guy who liked helping people,” said his son, John Dorsey III. “Everybody seemed to love him.”

Dr. Dorsey died Sunday, March 20, 2022, at his home. He was 94.

Dr. John Dorsey

From the generations of families he treated to the colleagues who sought his advice and the area residents inspired through his efforts, the Lathrup Village resident was a constant, welcoming presence.

"Doctor Dorsey is the doctor you dream of having," said Jeanne Findlater, a longtime friend. "He was skilled, empathic, compassionate, an intellectually-gifted doctor who demonstrated daily that the practice of medicine was an art as well as a science." 

His primary work was through Beverly Hills Pediatrics, which he helped launch in 1959, colleagues said.

It now has multiple locations, and Dr. Dorsey counseled thousands over the years.

He also was affiliated with Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, The Detroit News reported.

Co-workers and longtime patients recall his kind approach to appointments and encounters.

"He always had a smile and a twinkle in his eye and made you feel like he waited all day to see you," said Carol Beggs, a former patient who later worked with him professionally as a therapist.

"I think most people just adored him. … He just had a way of connecting with people. He brought honor and respect and integrity to himself and to his profession."

Dr. Dorsey’s passion for medicine and serving others led to other ventures, relatives and associates said.

He was involved in a free medical clinic associated with a Pontiac church in the 1960s; a health care program for migrant workers in Berrien Springs; and treating children of incarcerated parents, according to his curriculum vitae.

"John was an articulate teacher who used that skill to advocate for the well-being of his young patients who had no voice and no vote," Findlater said. "When he saw an unmet need, he invented its remedy and persuaded others to join the cause."

The interest started early.

Born July 29, 1927, in Iowa, Mr. Dorsey briefly lived in Austria, where his father, a psychiatrist, studied under psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud.

He spent the rest of his youth in Metro Detroit, graduating from Highland Park High School and Wayne State University.

Mr. Dorsey also enlisted in the Navy, interned at Detroit Receiving Hospital and completed a residency in pediatrics at Henry Ford, according to his curriculum vitae.

He started practicing in Adrian and later became a medical director and founder for what was then Common Ground in Birmingham, according to the document.

Dr. Dorsey also joined a General Motors advisory panel on automotive safety and was appointed by Gov. George Romney to a Michigan youth commission.

In the 1960s, he became involved in politics, spearheading a petition seeking a fair housing ordinance in Birmingham, relatives said. He later served on the City Commission and was mayor pro tem. 

"He liked contributing, and he was good at it," his son said. “He was just indefatigable. He just kept going. He had boundless optimism.”

Dr. Dorsey, who earned recognition from the American Academy of Pediatrics and its Michigan chapter, also served in the U.S. Army Medical Corps, rising to colonel, according to his curriculum vitae.

He later authored a newspaper column and offered expertise for articles in The Detroit News.

In one from 2001, about vaccinations, he told a reporter: "I'm old enough to have seen the true epidemics and I was involved in innumerable cases of paralytic polio."

Another passion was lecturing in behavioral pediatrics and mentoring other professionals.

"That was very helpful in how I approach parents and children with concerns," said Dr. David Obudzinski, who worked with him for more than 30 years.

Beyond his engagements and work, Dr. Dorsey loved to read to stay sharp, his son said. "He was infinitely and inexhaustibly curious."

Other survivors include another son, Joseph; a brother, Dr. Edward Dorsey; four grandchildren; and three stepchildren.

He was predeceased by his wife of 43 years, Lorraine; a daughter, Carolyn; and his first wife, Sally Stanton Dorsey.

A memorial is planned.