Farewell, Dr. Spilane

Dr. Michael Spilane, who wrote a column for this magazine from 1982 to 2017, died peacefully at his home after a battle with cancer.

Dr. Michael Spilane
Dr. Michael Spilane

We have some sad news, Good Age readers.

Dr. Michael Spilane — who wrote for Minnesota Good Age for 35 years — died peacefully at his home in Shoreview on May 13, 2019, after a battle with cancer.

He was 77 years old.

Spilane wrote a column for this magazine starting in 1982, just a few months after the publication launched in late 1981 as a St. Paul-based broadsheet newspaper.

Spilane continued to write under titles such as Good Health, House Call and Your Health — through multiple ownership changes — until January 2017.

He tackled myriad health challenges that pertained to seniors such as hearing loss, hair loss, bone density, cataracts, dry eyes, vascular health/cholesterol, tremors, dry skin, thyroid problems and incontinence as well as diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and cancer.

His tone was direct. He voice was fact-based. And yet a current of kindness and wisdom seemed to run though his columns every month.

Dr. Spilane columns

“His column in Good Age was the first I’d turn to (after mine, that is),” said Good Age’s Memories columnist Carol Hall of Woodbury. “I really missed it when it stopped. I found it so interesting to read his take on illnesses afflicting seniors — always useful information one way or the other.”

Bill Kosfeld, the former general manager/publisher of Good Age, said Spilane’s advice and observations were “always practical, helpful and down-to-earth.”

“One could always tell that he cared a lot about improving the health of older people,” Kosfeld said.

At times, Spilane waxed poetic as well as practical. He was open about the trials of aging on the human body.

In a 2016 column titled War of attrition, he said: “The wear-and-tear theory of human aging puts much of the blame on our physical environment: Like tires that wear out because of continued friction against the road, humans wear out by continued exposure to innumerable physical and environmental forces.”

Spilane was a lifelong Minnesotan, graduating from DeLaSalle High School, Saint John’s University and the University of Minnesota Medical School.

After interning at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Texas, he returned to the University of Minnesota Medical School for a fellowship in internal medicine, including one year as chief resident.

Board certified in internal medicine and geriatrics, Spilane was an assistant professor of medicine from 1973 until retirement in 2014.

He spent his entire career at Saint Paul Ramsey/Regions Hospital, where he focused on the treatment of older adults.

Spilane started the Seniors Comprehensive Care Clinic, a pioneering, team-based care delivery model. He initiated and was the director of the Department of Internal Medicine’s Fellowship in Geriatric Medicine from 1988 to 2011.

He was a beloved educator and mentor for hundreds of medical students, residents and fellows, as well as his devoted staff.

December 1982 column by Dr. Spilane

In addition to his Good Age column, Spilane shared his enthusiasm for geriatrics and knowledge of medical care by giving numerous lectures to medical professionals as well as non-medical community groups.

He served for 19 years on the board of directors for Volunteers of America, a national nonprofit dedicated to helping those in need.

Beyond his love of medicine, he enjoyed running, biking, skiing, cooking for friends, his home in Shoreview and the Spilane family lake cottage in central Minnesota.

He was greatly appreciated by his family for his loving and generous support.

He was preceded in death by parents, Jack and Lorraine, and sisters Patricia and Jacquelyn. He is survived by sisters Jeanne, Diane and Kathleen, brother John and many nieces and nephews — and his special friends, Alice Connelly and Dr. David J. Griffin.

Remembrances can be directed to Catholic Charities, Saint John’s University, the Union Gospel Mission or Little Brothers–Friends of the Elderly.

Thank you, Dr. Spilane, for bringing guidance, awareness, peace of mind, comfort and wisdom to the readers of Good Age for more than three decades.

Special thanks to the family and friends of Dr. Michael Spilane, who shared his obituary information with us for this short tribute.