He’s been called an “institution” in downtown Harrisburg—a podiatrist who served the community faithfully for more than three decades on Pine Street.
Now, Dr. Brian Dechowitz is calling it quits, giving up his practice and primarily moving out of state, while a fellow physician with Harrisburg roots takes his place at Pine Street Podiatry.
It isn’t retirement in the typical sense. Dechowitz, who has been a caregiver to his wife, Glenda, for many years, needs to up the time and effort he devotes to her.
“Nov. 15 will mark the absolute last day of my practice,” he said.
Dechowitz founded his practice with an assist from a previous generation of podiatrists. Through friends and colleagues, he met Jack Pincus, a semi-retired podiatrist. He allowed Pincus and Julius Ogden, another a semi-retired podiatrist, to work in his new office for free.
“Even though Jack had been working only two afternoons a week and Julius, only three mornings a week, they still had very good reputations in downtown Harrisburg. So, I had access to their long list of previous patients,” Dechowitz said. “We truly were family. Jack would always be known from that point forward as my second father, my mentor and my friend.”
In fact, it was Pincus who advised Dechowitz to open an office downtown.
“Jack and Julius may have been the only podiatrists still practicing in the area at the time,” he said.
On the very first day in practice—July 1, 1986—Dechowitz treated 11 patients. On Aug. 23, 2019, he treated a new patient, number 11,897.
Another milestone was receiving an award from the Historic Harrisburg Association for his building “coming back from the dead”—his office having been essentially uninhabited from 1964 to 1986.
Bill Nichols, the owner of the Colonnade Restaurant across the street, had bought the buildings at 125 and 127 Pine St. and renovated them using historic tax credits.
“I saw the ‘for rent’ sign in the window, rented the buildings for six years and then bought them in 1992,” Dechowitz said.
While he stayed happily downtown, other podiatrists who had practiced in the area relocated to the suburbs, mostly for the parking.
“But this location was good to us,” with its wealth of government workers and senior citizen buildings, Dechowitz pointed out.
Besides, he purchased a lot next to the other two and converted it into space for parking.
His medical philosophy has been simple: “I try to treat patients the way I want to be treated. Most of my patients come via word of mouth.”
Another principle Dechowitz holds by is that one ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
“I am also proud to say that my record for preventing lower-extremity amputations, for (reducing) the number of visits that my patients make to the emergency room, for the number of days that my patients stay in the hospital for foot-related problems, and for the ordering of very expensive tests, such as MRIs, CAT scans, etc., is second to none,” he said.
Medicine isn’t the podiatrist’s only strength. Dechowitz took after his father, Fred, long the athletic director at the old Jewish Community Center on N. 3rd Street. The son excelled in sports, especially in tennis and golf, and has been inducted into the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame of central Pennsylvania.
Much as his medical practice has benefitted thousands and rewarded him professionally, his wife’s needs are most critical now.
“I am at a crossroads in my life,” Dechowitz said.
Aside from wanting to spend more time with his wife, Dechowitz said he’s “ready to start a new adventure.”
For now, though, patients are still coming. With just a little time left, he hoped to reach 12,000 before his mid-month retirement after 33 years.
Dr. Avia Reuveni, Dr. Dechowitz’s successor, will begin practicing at Pine Street Podiatry on Nov. 18. There will be an open house block party on Pine Street on Sunday, Nov. 10, from noon to 6 p.m., to say farewell to Dr. Dechowitz and welcome Dr. Reuveni.