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A Life Remembered: Pediatrician Remembered As an Advocate for Abused Children

May 23, 2007

By Terry Rindfleisch, La Crosse Tribune, Wis.

May 23–Dr. Kenneth Kolb Jr. looked out and cared for abused and neglected children.

Kolb, who died Monday at the age of 49, was a Gundersen Lutheran pediatrician who was a passionate child advocate.

“He really cared very, very deeply about children,” said Dr. Ann Budzak, a Gundersen Lutheran pediatrician. “He believed they deserved to be safe, and we as adults should be advocates for them because they can’t do it for themselves.”

Kolb was instrumental in developing Stepping Stones,

La Crosse’s first child advocacy center that opened in 2005 at Family and Children’s

Center. He served on the

advocacy center’s board and was a member of Gundersen Lutheran’s child maltreatment team.

“He always made himself available at the drop of a hat to see these kids,” Budzak said.

Budzak said she appreciated Kolb as a colleague who was willing to share his ideas and thoughts about a patient. “He also was a funny guy, fun to be around,” she said.

Kolb, who with his wife, Darci, have four children and two stepchildren, died at Gundersen Lutheran after a three-year battle with melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer. In the summer of 2004, a spot appeared on his cheek, and he went to get it checked out by a dermatologist, who diagnosed the melanoma.

Each time the cancer was surgically removed, it returned. He participated in an experimental vaccine trial, but the cancer had spread to his lungs and spine. Kolb also tried an experimental gene therapy treatment at the National Institutes of Health, but the cancer spread to the brain.

Kolb was compassionate, honest and committed to his work, said Dr. Steve Manson, a Gundersen Lutheran pediatrician.

“He dedicated himself to every patient, but he especially wanted to help kids who were victims of physical and sexual abuse,” Manson said. “He had a big heart.”

Dr. Rajiv Naik, chairman of Gundersen Lutheran’s pediatrics department, said Kolb always saw extra patients in his day.

“I’ll remember his positive attitude, his willingness to help his colleagues and put the patient first,” Naik said.

Kolb, who joined Gundersen Lutheran in 1997, was a gentle, kind and quiet man who cared about his work and his patients, said Dr. Richard Strauss, another Gundersen pediatrician.

Dr. Jeff Thompson, Gundersen Lutheran CEO, issued a statement: “We feel extremely fortunate to have had Dr. Kolb on our staff, although his stay with us was far too brief. His dedication to bettering the health and lives of children was exemplary.”

The Rev. Dave Bersagel, pastor at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in West Salem, Wis., said helping abused children was Kolb’s passion.

“I’ll remember him as a deeply caring person with humility,” Bersagel said. “He packed a lot of living in his life.”

Terry Rindfleisch can be reached at trindfleisch@lacrossetribune. com, or (608) 791-8227.

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Copyright (c) 2007, La Crosse Tribune, Wis.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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