UB alumni, community reflect on Dr. Edmond J. Gicewicz' life
Buffalo remembers former physician, athlete and UB council member
Dr. Edmond J. Gicewicz, a former athlete and team physician, was known for his dedication and care toward thousands of athletes at UB.
Gicewicz, who passed away at 89 years old on March 28, was involved in the UB community since the late 1940s. Gicewicz, better known as “Doc,” grew up in Buffalo and played for the Bulls’ football, basketball and baseball teams.
After his time as an athlete ended in 1952, Gicewicz earned his MD at the university in 1956. He went on to be the Bulls team physician for over 25 years. He also served on the UB Council from 1997-2013.
Gicewicz was the founder and first director of the UB Sports Medicine Institute, which is now UBMD Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine. He was also a former president of the UB Medical Alumni Association.
“He would somehow fit in 30 hours into a 24-hour day,” said Dr. Robert Smolinski, an associate professor of orthopaedics and orthopaedic surgeon with UBMD Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine.
Smolinski, the current head team physician for UB Athletics, broke his femur playing football for the little league Boston Patriots in 1965. After the injury, Robert’s father Phil Smolinski called Gicewicz.
Smolinski went to Millard Fillmore Gates Circle Hospital in Buffalo and Gicewicz set his leg at 1 a.m. in the morning.
Over 25 years later, Smolinski began working with Gicewicz at Farber Hall’s UB Sports Medicine Institute in 1991. Smolinski said the clinic consisted of himself, Gicewicz, a physical therapist and a few athletic trainers.
Now, UBMD Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine has 37 physicians, 24 physician assistants and 310 staff.
Smolinski said Gicewicz was a larger than life person, a dedicated family man and a devoted physician.
“He would find time to travel around to see his kids. Both of them played football,” Smolinski said. “Legendarily, in the same weekend, he saw his one son play at Harvard and flew to see his other son play at Michigan State the same day, somehow.”
Smolinski said Gicewicz was a motivational figure, a great public speaker and made a person want to succeed as both a physician and individual.
“His mantra was to get athletes back quickly and safely. That probably was the biggest thing about him,” Smolinski said.
“He wasn’t for throwing athletes back out on the field when they weren’t ready. He emphasized things being done safely. That’s always stuck with me. He was a big fan of UB, but the professional side always came through in medically treating the athletes as correctly as he could.”
Gicewicz received a number of awards including the 1977 Distinguished Alumni Award, the 2013 UB President’s Medal and the 1978 Samuel P. Capen Chancellor’s Award.
Gicewicz was a major donor to athletics and donated $200,000 with his wife, Connie Gicewicz, in 2007. Today, his namesake appears on the Dr. and Mrs. Edmond J. Gicewicz Family UB Athletics Hall of Fame and the Edmond J. Gicewicz Club in UB Stadium.
Joe Oliverio played on the Bulls’ 1958 Lambert Cup-winning football team.
The team received an invite to the Tangerine Bowl against Florida State after winning the cup. The Tangerine Bowl’s leaseholder, the Orlando High School Athletic Association, banned interracial teams at the game and would not allow their black teammates Willie Evans and Mike Wilson to play. The team ultimately decided against attending the bowl.
“Doc was right there to support us in our decision. He was a great mentor, and we were proud to have him in our corner,” said Oliverio, a ‘61 alum.
Years later, Oliverio said Gicewicz helped the team receive the Chancellor Charles P. Norton Medal in 2009. Oliverio said the team will always express gratitude for the distinction and it’s the greatest honor they ever received.
“He was always gregarious, fun and always thinking about UB and what we could do to improve the situation here,” Oliverio said. “He did it all there. He was ‘Mr. UB’ as far as I’m concerned.”
Charlie Donnor is a former assistant coach and member of the Bulls football team. Donnor, who also worked in Compliance and Athlete Development, said Gicewicz was a huge supporter of the Bulls and took great care of him as a student-athlete.
“Whenever Athletics started having reunions [in the early ‘00s], Doc would come to all of those. He knew everybody,” Donnor said. “He hadn’t seen a couple of my friends since they’d graduated in 1971 and he recognized them from yards away. He would call out to them by name and ask how their shoulder or anything else was doing. He never forgot anyone.”
Donnor said he remembers Gicewicz as personable, funny and as someone who would do anything to help UB.
Ron Balter was a student manager for the Bulls football team from 1977-79, the first three years after the program’s seven-year hiatus.
In 1979, Balter’s friend, roommate and defensive tackle Larry Rothman was injured during the opening game for the Bulls. Gicewicz did a physical examination on Rothman after his knee and leg got tied up near the sideline.
The exam happened on a Saturday and by Monday morning, Balter said Rothman underwent a knee operation.
“He was a great diagnostician on the physical exam. Most of the doctors I’ve seen do that would come on in later years but by then, it was just on the edge of when arthroscopic surgery started coming into vogue,” Balter said.
“Even with less invasive surgery, he was able to feel the knee, move the knee and say ‘this is what your injury is.’ He would go in and he was right. That’s probably a lost art today in medicine.”
Correction: Joe Oliverio played with Gicewicz on the Bulls’ 1958 Lambert Cup-winning football team.