Dr. Joseph Territo was ‘doctor’s doctor’

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News
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From the residents he supervised to the many patients who sought his advice over the years, Dr. Joseph Territo earned a reputation as an exemplary physician.

“He lived and breathed being a doctor and an educator,” said Dr. Mark Schury, a longtime colleague. “He was one of the best physicians I ever worked with.”

The Metro Detroit native devoted his long career to osteopathic medicine.

From 1978-90, he served as the medical director and oversaw medical education at Pontiac Osteopathic Hospital, relatives and associates said.

Years after they interacted with him in those dual roles, staffers still recall his precise attention to how his charges presented themselves and tended to patients.

Dr. Territo died Saturday, March 31, 2018, at his home after health issues. He was 81.

“He was a very constant, focused individual,” said Dr. E. Patrick Mitchell, a former intern and resident. “He taught by example. I learned many, many things from him.”

During that tenure, he was medical personnel director at Oakland County sites, chaired a utilization review committee, led an outpatient program and became a clinical instructor at Michigan State University as well as other colleges, according to his resume.

Active with many professional affiliations and elected a fellow by the Academy of Osteopathic Directors of Medical Education, Dr. Territo also was instrumental in hospital expansion plans and helped launch an osteopathic dermatology residency program, family and colleagues said.

“He was ahead of his time,” said Dr. James Stepanski, another former intern. “He was such as great influence.”

Dr. Territo’s healing touch emerged even as a youth growing up in Detroit, where he was born on June 29, 1936. Relatives and others sought his counsel for health issues, brother Carl Territo said. “He was being a doctor before being a doctor. It was just in him.”

The oldest of four siblings also was a dancer and stage performer who netted high-profile radio and stage gigs around the city, said his daughter, Chris Morrisroe.

After graduating from Pershing High School, he studied pharmacy at Wayne State University. Dr. Territo worked in the profession before his father’s death from cancer inspired him to pursue medicine, Morrisroe said.

He relocated with his family to attend the Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine. Earning his degree, Dr. Territo interned at Pontiac Osteopathic Hospital in the 1960s before joining a family practice in Oakland County.

He later worked in Berkley before launching a Waterford Township clinic in the 1990s.

Though Dr. Territo thrived in hospital settings, he loved the personal touch of private practice. “He was a true family doctor,” said Dr. Michael Doyle, another colleague who now is program director of emergency medicine residency at McLaren Oakland. “He was happiest when he was in the office seeing patients.”

Outside of the office, Dr. Territo had a knack for helping raise animals, gardening and building, his daughter said. “He fixed everything. He was a really great handyman.”

Even as his health declined, he still saw patients through 2015. “He just loved fixing people and loved teaching,” Morrisroe said. “He was a no-nonsense man that committed himself to whatever he said he was going to do. He was a doctor’s doctor.”

Besides his daughter and brother, other survivors include his wife of 62 years, Beverly; children Joe, Jeff, Jon, Jim and Cindy Karagosian; 14 grandchildren; and siblings Luise and Mary.

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