First published in the June 23 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.
Dr. William Schubert, a local medical family practice mainstay, recently hung up his white coat at 96 years old — leaving behind a trail of broken hearts.
During Schubert’s time in family medicine, it was common for him to deliver babies and then treat their baby’s babies down the road — caring for generations of families spanning the length of his more than six-decades career.
So, when his patients heard the news of his retirement, tears were shed for the doctor — a testament to the bond Schubert has built and fostered with those under his care.
The doctor’s presence on Foothill Boulevard, where his practice has been located since 1956, is already missed by those who know him.
In a recent interview, Schubert joked that he would have continued to treat his patients forever if he could, but felt that it was the right time to take a step back and start a new chapter: retired life.
“The reason why I’ve worked up to my age is because I enjoy what I do,” Schubert said. “Medicine is a calling for some people rather than just a job. It’s something I’m going to miss, especially the interaction with my patients — those moments are what I’m going to miss the most.”
Lisa Yeghiayan, Schubert’s longtime practice manager, said she is proud to have worked alongside the widely beloved doctor and to have played a small role in his history of providing personalized care to each of his patients.
She fondly recalled the doctor listening to all who walked through his door about their day and the details about their background, which would help him to judge their treatment, because at his core, Yeghiayan said the doctor understood that each patient was a whole person, not just symptoms listed on paper.
“When we’re all searching for doctors, Dr. Schubert is the type of physician that you’re looking for,” Yeghiayan said. “He’s knowledgeable, attentive, kind and has a big heart. What else could you want?
“He is a doctor you would want in your corner — in your life — because he was really there for you and still is,” she added.
Along with the relationships Schubert has formed throughout his career have come a host of treasured photographs that his patients have brought him as mementos — a welcome offering that he has been collecting for years. Those photos once lived in his medical office, layered and push-pinned from edge-to-edge of a bulletin board, which amassed more than just images, but decades-worth of love reciprocated.
“The patients have become friends over the years and being their doctor is hard for me to give up,” Schubert said, “but I know I can’t do this forever.”
Although his time as a working physician has ended, the love he has felt remains.
“You would be amazed at the number of gifts, letters and expressions of appreciation that I’ve gotten,” Schubert said. “I’m getting overwhelmed with all the interest, feelings and support that people are giving me. It has been very nice.”
It’s hard to imagine Schubert as anything but a doctor; however, there was a time when becoming a physician wasn’t even on his radar.
In his youth, Schubert set his mind on becoming a veterinarian. He would even volunteer at animal clinics on weekends and holidays, learning the trade in his spare time in high school.
Yet, the trajectory of that vision becoming a reality came to a halt after he was drafted into World War II as a medic at only 17 years old, prompting a change of heart and setting him on-course to pursue the medical doctor route.
If not for this turn of events, Schubert may not have realized his true calling, leaving La Cañada Flintridge absent of one doctor’s deep-rooted and far-reaching impact.
When Schubert returned from the war, he attended the University of Southern California for his undergraduate degree and medical school. Soon after, his journey would lead him to become one of the first doctors at what is now named USC Verdugo Hills Hospital, where he served as chief of staff, chair of family medicine and was involved in various committees and clubs, including the Credentials Committee, Family Practice Committee and the USC-VHH Foundation’s Caduceus Society — a physician-giving group that is composed of philanthropic physician leaders who donate funds to the hospital on an annual basis to supply equipment, nurses’ training and professional development, patient experience programs and care for underserved communities.
The doctor helped establish the society in 1982, and to thank Schubert for his devotion to the hospital and years of giving back, the organization recently honored him with a celebratory reception.
In attendance, wishing the doctor a well-deserved retirement was USC-VHH’s Dr. Happy Khanna, who has known Schubert for more than 30 years. Khanna recalled that when the doctor congratulated her for assuming the chief of staff role in 2020 — the same position he held in 1972 — that moment stayed with her.
“He was pleased to see a woman fulfilling the role,” said Khanna, who specializes in pediatrics. “He was proud of me and told me I was doing a great job. It was so nice to have someone I look up to give me positive feedback.”
Revered for his unyielding wisdom and sound medical judgment, Schubert is equally known for his gentleness, cool temperament and friendly demeanor.
“He is the most caring, humble and courteous person I know,” Khanna said. “He’s like a teddy bear you want to hug. I will always remember him as the bow-tie doctor who smiles all the time.”
Schubert said that though his service to the community has been a reward in itself, and while his departure from his practice is bittersweet, it is the cherished memories from a fulfilled career that he carries with him into retirement.
In this new chapter, Schubert said he plans to spend his golden years embracing time with family, including his wife Gloria Vessadini, four daughters, 11 grandchildren, 18 great-grandchildren and his tortoise named Charlemagne, who out-ages the 96-year-old by at least a handful of years.
“Being able to cure people and see them get well is gratifying,” Schubert said. “I hope that my care has been a comfort and a help to people. I think I’ve been able to prolong lives and make lives happier for a lot of people, and that’s a good feeling.”