David Riedel, MD, with the plaque presented to him by the Digestive Health Center staff. The plaque reads "Tell Hal We're There," a reference to the movie 2001: Space Odyssey that the DHC staff used to quote often.

ALTON – David Riedel, MD, has seen a lot in his 44 years at Alton Memorial Hospital. But the most important thing is not any of the changes to the campus. It’s what he’s been able to see inside his patients – and what he and his colleagues have been able to do about that.

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“I got into gastroenterology because this was the first specialty where you could actually prevent a disease like cancer,” Riedel says. “We can look inside a patient, see polyps and then the polypectomy won’t just discover the disease or treat it, we can actually prevent colon cancer by removing those polyps. I found that to be very satisfying.”

Riedel’s last official day on the job was April 30. He retires as the senior member of the AMH medical staff, as none of the others currently at AMH were on staff when Riedel started in 1980.

“I was the first sub-specialist here,” Riedel says. “And we didn’t have hospitalists then, so we were also seeing our patients on the floors. It was quite a different time. And there were only three buildings on this beautiful campus then.”

There are six buildings now, and the main hospital building added two more wings during Riedel’s tenure, which saw him perform by his estimate more than 50,000 colonoscopies. That’s a lot of convincing patients to follow through with the procedure, not to mention the colonoscopy preparation that many people dread.

“That’s gotten much better over the years,” says Riedel, a St. Louis native who earned his medical degree in 1975 at the University of Missouri in Columbia. “It used to be three days of clear liquid and now it’s one day of preparation.”

Riedel practices what he preaches, as he’s had six colonoscopies himself, “and I stayed awake for four of them.”

That’s not because he doesn’t trust his co-workers. Quite the contrary, Riedel offered high praise for Ahmed Karadaghy, MD, with whom he has worked for more than 20 years, and Yixi Tu, MD, who will carry on the excellent work in the AMH Digestive Health Center.

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“They are both top-notch,” Riedel says.

Riedel says his plans for retirement are up in the air – which means he’ll be flying his Piper Dakota four-seater more often. He’s had his pilot’s license for 25 years, which is only half the time he’s been married to Margaret Donnelly. The daughter of former AMH surgeon Bernard Donnelly, Margaret just retired in January after a long career in Missouri politics, which saw her active in all three branches of government – legislative, executive and judicial.

“Margaret was one of the main reasons I ended up in Alton,” Riedel says. “Her father was a surgeon here, so that was a big factor. And it was an exciting time as we were just beginning to understand all the possibilities that gastroenterology offered.”

They have two children, Adam and Julia, both lawyers and both married to lawyers, plus four grandchildren. Julia lives in the Chicago area and Adam lives in Falls Church, Va.

Riedel served for years on the AMH board of directors and has remained a member of the Alton Memorial Health Services Foundation board.

AMH president Dave Braasch says that Riedel has been “an integral part of the fiber of Alton Memorial Hospital for more than 40 years.”

“Since bringing new methods of diagnosing and treating digestive disorders, procedures to screen for colon cancer, and advocating for and building the first Digestive Health Center on our campus, Dr. Riedel has been at the forefront,” Braasch says. “His leadership ensured we were always fulfilling our mission to our community and being the best we could be. I can’t thank him enough for the enormous amount of time and energy he has dedicated to this institution and the people we serve. I personally wish him all the best as his begins this new chapter in life.”

Amy Toenyes, nurse manager of the Digestive Health Center, is a fan of Riedel’s on both a professional and personal level.

“Dr. Riedel is a wealth of knowledge, not only in the GI realm of things but a true history buff,” says Toenyes. “He has shared his love of GI with multiple students who have observed in his procedure rooms and has always been willing to answer questions and help. I remember him drawing his GI procedure notes for his patients with his fountain pen with precision, and he wrote with the same calligraphic style. I’m wishing Dr. Riedel many years of health and happiness in his retirement as he enjoys spending time with his wife and grandchildren. He will be missed.”

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