Chicago Doc Administers Tall Dose of Heart

Dr. Dan Ivankovic is an orthopedic surgeon in Chicago.
His work takes him to Chicago's meanest streets. But at seven feet tall, cruising in his 500-horsepower Dodge and wearing black leather -- he knows no fear.

He may spend some nights playing the blues with his band, but by day, Dan Ivankovich is all business: a bone doctor with a heart as big as his frame.

Dan Ivankovich's Web site

The tall guy with the hard-to-pronounce name gave drummer Jimmi Mayes a new hip when he didn't have insurance. And he did the surgery that gave Patricia Wilson her groove back.

"You really feel like this person is really going to do something for you," Wilson said.

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It was during his residency at Cook County Hospital (the place that inspired the TV show "ER") that the orthopedic surgeon first saw the need and realized his calling.

"Patients were on waiting lists for five years for basic stuff, colonoscopies, mammograms," Ivankovich said. "And I thought, this is America?"

He decided to treat first and charge later. In a city where hundreds of thousands live in poverty, he's therefore always on call.

"On any given day, it might be three, four, five different hospitals, multiple surgeries," Ivankovic said.

Ivankovich does as many as 800 surgeries a year, twice the number for most orthopedic surgeons. And he makes roughly half as much because at least one-third of his patients are uninsured.

"I've never let something like resources, poverty, money, get in the way," he said. "When you see something that's just blaring at you, how do you keep going and say it's OK? It's not."

"You see a child that's crippled. You see a 50-year-old in a wheelchair, and I can fix it. Why wouldn't I?" Ivankovich asks.

As outgoing as he is about his work, he's deeply private when it comes to his family - other than to admit they pay a price.

"What are you gonna do? I mean this is what I do, this is who I am," Ivankovich said. "It's very, very tough, You give up a lot.

But he refuses to give up the mission that gives his life meaning.