Dr. Anthony Dardano, ’63: Advocating Catholic Healthcare Ethics
November 13, 2012 by Lisa M. McMahon, M.A.'09
When Catholics have questions about pro-life issues as they relate to their particular medical concerns, they often turn to Dr. Anthony Dardano, ’63. As the physician advisor on medical ethics for the Eternal Word Network, the largest religious media network in the world, he has rendered hundreds of opinions regarding abortion, sterilization, contraception, ectopic pregnancy, and infertility.
It’s a role he for which he has seemingly been preparing most of his life. During his undergraduate years at Niagara University, he majored in biology while pursuing a minor in philosophy and ethics, then went on to medical school at the University of Bologna in Italy, “where the ethics of the Catholic Church prevailed.” He completed his specialty training in obstetrics and gynecology at St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester, N.Y., before returning to his hometown of Utica in 1973, where he practiced at St. Elizabeth Hospital, a facility run by the Franciscan Sisters. There, he served as chief of ob-gyn, a position that enabled him to play a key role in “maintaining the ethical standards for the moral issues which face all hospitals today.” He is also an active member of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists and served as president of his local Catholic Physicians Guild.
Having developed a keen interest in Catholic healthcare ethics due to this experience, Dr. Dardano continued to keep current with the complexities of the ethical questions that arise. Several years ago, while reading an article written by a priest at EWTN on a medical moral issue, Dr. Dardano realized that the content was morally sound but medically weak. He contacted the author and was subsequently invited to share his expertise as a physician advisor to the network.
The most challenging issues he deals with are those concerning abortion, he says, especially in the case when an unborn child has been diagnosed with a debilitating or fatal illness. “I must convince (the parents), in a most compassionate manner, that abortion, no matter what the circumstance, is never, ever permitted,” he says. “It has never been easy, but the satisfaction I receive in knowing that I have helped save the life of an innocent child is indescribable.”
A board certified ob-gyn licensed to practice medicine in New York, Vermont, Pennsylvania and Florida, Dr. Dardano has delivered some 5,000 babies. Being able to practice his specialty “in total concert with the ethical teachings of the Roman Catholic Church” has been a highlight of his career, he says. He recalls one incident in particular, when a former patient stopped him to say that the son he counseled her out of aborting had graduated from college. “He thanks you,” she told him.
“I will never forget that moment,” Dr. Dardano says.
It’s a fitting example of the man who has never wanted to be anything but a doctor. Inspired by his father, a pharmacist, Dr. Dardano decided early on that he wanted to be part of the healthcare industry at the “highest level possible.” He chose Niagara because of its small size, reputation, and strong Catholic tradition, and says he benefited from the positive scientific influence of Dr. Thomas Morton and the lasting spiritual impression left by the Rev. Elmer Kieffer’s medical ethics class.
A Fellow of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American College of Surgeons, and the International College of Surgeons, Dr. Dardano retired to Florida in 2007 with his wife of nearly 50 years, Marjorie, to be near his son, daughter, and five grandsons. His retirement was brief, however. Shortly after relocating, he took a position as chief medical officer of the 493-bed Delray Medical Center in Delray Beach, where he is intricately involved in overseeing the medical care delivered at that acute care facility. He also holds the titles of associate dean for academic affairs and voluntary professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, where he teaches a weekly class and coordinates the clinical training for the students.
“I feel honored to be an integral part of the formation of these ‘MDs to be,’” he says. “I want to teach them that the art and compassion of medicine is just as important, if not more important, than the business and science of medicine.”
In addition to these duties, Dr. Dardano also finds times on nights and weekends to assist any obstetrician or surgeon who needs his help in the OR or delivery room.
When asked what he loves most about the career he’s had for more than 40 years, he says, “Making a difference in someone's life, whether it be delivering a child, treating a cancer, comforting the sick, or defending an ethical principle. It’s all worth it as long as some good comes from it.”