John “Jack” Hardy, D.O.’65, FACOS, didn’t travel out of his time zone to attend his DMU 50-year reunion, but he has left his comfort zone several times in a career that’s taken him from surgery to cancer-fighting to photography and from Cincinnati to Saipan to Cuenca, Ecuador.
Hardy began his health care career as a pharmacist with the goal of becoming a physician. “The language of pharmacy was so intertwined with medicine, so I had a leg up,” he said while on campus. That changed his second year at DMU when his mother, just 43, died of cervical cancer. He was considering dropping out until classmate Perry Dworkin, D.O.’65, offered to share his class notes.
“I never forgot that,” Hardy says. Nor did he forget the cancer — preventable and treatable if caught early — that prematurely took the lives of his mother and grandmother. As a surgical resident at Doctors Hospital in Columbus, OH, he served a year as a clinical fellow in gynecologic oncology with the American Cancer Society. In 1989, after years in successful private surgery practice in Cincinnati, difficult transitions in his personal life motivated him to connect with an organization that placed American medical professionals in other countries. He settled on Saipan, the capital of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI).
“Saipan had a hospital and the people there spoke English. I got to practice without having to hire and fire people,” he said. “The weather is beautiful. It was a good lifestyle.”
Hardy also became interested in photography, eventually working in a lab with another photographer — “cheaper than going to photography school,” he said. He maintained his medical career and, in 1999, became active in the local unit of the American Cancer Society. When its affiliation with the society was terminated in 2003, he became a senior adviser and volunteer with the newly formed Commonwealth Cancer Association (CCA).
At the time, Saipan had among the world’s highest rates of the human papillomavirus (HPV), some types of which can lead to cancer and especially cervical cancer. Hardy, the CCA and the CNMI public health department mobilized a campaign to deliver the HPV vaccine, at no charge, to the island’s at-risk adolescent and teen girls in their schools.
“We were one of only three jurisdictions in the world to carry out the program in the early days of the vaccine, which is about 75 percent effective,” Hardy said. The innovative campaign won an award from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “We were at the forefront.”
Hardy continued to dabble in professional photography and also served a term as president of the Artists of Rota, Tinian (other Northern Mariana islands) and Saipan; president of the Marianas Walking Association; and a board member of the Saipan Street Market. But the hospital kept him hopping: At eight times during his 25 years on Saipan, he was the only surgeon for its 60,000 people.
“Sometimes I was called to do surgeries I had minimal training for,” he said. He started to ponder the next phase of his life, exploring resettlement in Bali, Costa Rica, Mexico, Panama, the Philippines and Thailand. A friend and fellow physician encouraged him to move to Ecuador, where Hardy had served on a mission with the Cinterandes Foundation — primarily as a documentary photographer with “an occasional stint as a surgeon.” He made his move and official retirement from medicine in 1997.
Now a resident of Cuenca, the capital of the Azuay Province on the Andes mountain range with gorgeous architecture, beautiful parks, museums and average year-round temperatures in the mid-70s, Hardy is working to earn success as a professional photographer. He has volunteered for local charitable events and enjoys teaching English to Ecuadoran Spanish-seeking children.
“All in all, I consider it has been a great life thus far,” he said.