Dr. Walter Janke: Another Chapter in This Innovator's History
Dr. Walter Janke
- America's Health Choice is the Most Recent
Dr. Walter Janke is a true innovator.
HeÕs a physician, inventor, open-heart pioneer, and Ð most recently Ð founder of AmericaÕs Health Choice Medical Plans, Inc.
, a Medicare+Choice HMO
based in Vero Beach, Florida and serving Medicare eligible through out South Florida.
, the son of a German father and Italian mother, was born in Peru, where his
father had relocated to open a brewery.
The younger Janke had an entrepreneurial spirit as well, but he
calling in another field.
He went to medical school, earned a medical degree with a specialty in cardiovascular thoracic surgery, and joined the medical staff at St. Joseph Hospital in Flint Michigan.
ThatÕs an accomplishment in itself, but for Janke
, it was only the beginning of the road.
While at St. Joseph, he founded the Heart Institute of Michigan and served as its first director.
also performed the first coronary artery bypass procedure in Michigan.
changed the course of medicine.
In 1973, Janke
was asked to identify problematic areas associated with heart surgery.
provided several concepts that were built as prototypes.
One of them, the Janke-Barron Heart Support, was first used in coronary bypass surgery in 1974.
The device was patented in 1976.
"The Janke-Barron Heart Support is used in coronary bypass surgery," said Janke
In 1974, Janke
moved to Fort Lauderdale.
"I wanted to develop a cardiovascular program in a region where none had existed," said Janke
"I even brought my own equipment.
had opened not one, but two such programs, first at Florida Medical Center
and, later, at Holy Cross Hospital
In 1988, Janke retired from medicine.
wife, Lalita, a retired financial planner, were living in Fort Lauderdale and operating a chain of flower shops and a plant leasing company.
Then, Dr. and Mrs. Janke
decided to buy a boat, a 42-foot trawler, and went on a five-year, non-stop cruise through out the Bahamas, during which they visited every island.
"We went conch fishing and spear fishing, and planted mango and apple seeds on the islands we visited," recalled Mrs. Janke
In 1993, after returning to Fort Lauderdale they opened a primary care center in Boca Raton, and by 1998 they had expanded into 5 medical centers in the Treasure Coast of Florida.
In 1998, a turning point occurred when Humana left the area, leaving more than 30,000 seniors without access to managed care," said Janke
In the absence of a Humana center, Dr. and Mrs. Janke
then made another major decision Ð to open South FloridaÕs first primary care center to serve patients who belonged to Humana as well as other HMOs.
According to Janke
, the application process was complicated, to say the least.
However, thereÕs another important component that guides the Jankes: "Our philosophy of patient care, as well as work, is very mind-body-spirit focused," said Mrs. Janke
"We treat the whole person.
Before we hire a new employee, we talk extensively with him or her
to ensure a strong comfort level with our approach."
Things continue to grow and thrive.
As in 2000, Dr. Walter Janke serves as chairman and chief executive officer and Lalita serves as chief operating officer.
Today, though, that staff of 12 has grown to nearly 500 employees with a medical staff of about 50 primary care physicians and specialists serving more than 15,000 members.
The HMOÕs network includes 32 well equipped and fully staffed medical centers in Broward, Brevard, Indian River, St. Lucie, Martin, Okeechobee, and Palm Beach counties, along with a large number of hospitals, specialists, and ancillary health care providers.
"WeÕre opening centers every month," said Janke