Dan Ivankovich is unique. Born in Croatia, a Chicago resident since the age of three, this fellowship-trained orthopedic trauma surgeon and spine specialist has an alter ego, “The Right Reverend, Doctor D”, Chicago blues veteran with an imposing 7-foot frame. He’s destined to become a legend, if he isn’t one already.
Ivankovich understands what it’s like to be the underdog. Taunted by his third grade classmates for his unpronounceable last name and violin, he was head and shoulders above them all in more ways than one.
Due to his academic prowess, he skipped several grades, but his parents, (Anthony and Olga), both physicians, kept young Daniel’s school progress under close watch and prevented him from being a high-school graduate at the tender age of fourteen. They knew he needed time to mature, to catch up with his imposing physical stature.
Achieving All-State and All-American honors as a hoops baller and shot-caller, Ivankovich was one of the most highly recruited players in the States. With over 500 scholarship offers, he decided to play for Northwestern University while working towards his BSM/MD in the prestigious Honors Program In Medical Education. Then . . . disaster. A horrific knee injury ended his dreams of playing for the NBA and the Yugoslavian Olympic team.
With newfound time on his hands, he listened to his heart and turned to music for inspiration, transitioning from classical violinist to fire-breathing blues guitarist. Within months, he was playing on-stage with some of his musical heroes. Ivankovich went right to the source of the blues on Chicago’s South Side. He jammed, performed, and recorded with Chicago legends, Eddie Taylor, Homesick James, Snooky Pryor, Lefty Dizz, Johnny Dollar, Hubert Sumlin, James Cotton, Dion Payton, Magic Slim, Junior Wells, Bo Diddley, Muddy Waters and Buddy Guy. Including a stint as bandleader for legendary bluesman, Otis Rush.
At the Checkerboard Lounge on 43rd Street, he befriended and made a lifelong connection with players that he would eventually tap for the Chicago Blues All-Stars. Names like “Killer” Ray Allison, Jerry “Bam-Bam” Porter, Johnny B. Gayden and Roosevelt “Mad-Hatter” Purifoy. While a student at Northwestern, WNUR-FM, one of America’s premier non-commercial stations broadcasting from the University, took note. While trying to find the classroom for “Intro to Geography”, he took a wrong turn. It turned out to be all too right, bringing him to the door of the WNUR on-air studios. The music director lamented that the Blues Show needed a host or faced cancellation. Fate dropped that opportunity right in his lap.
The name, Daniel Ivankovich, didn’t have the right ring for Chicago blues, so he created the on-air personality, The Right Reverend, Doctor D. “Out Of The Blue” became the premiere Chicago blues program and was syndicated in over sixty markets. This led to on-air stints at commercial outlets WCKG-FM in Chicago and WQHT-FM in New York. He worked as producer and program developer for MJI Broadcasting in New York.
With success, came offers to don a “suit” and become an executive. Not for him. Ivankovich stayed true to his rebel heart. Those corporate offers weren’t tempting, but were exactly the wake-up call he needed. It was time to get back to basics, back to fulfill his mission as a healer . . . and to the source of his inspiration and strength in Chicago’s inner-city neighborhoods.
While an intern and resident, putting in 120+ hour weeks at Cook County Hospital, Ivankovich had the chance to change the status quo, work with the poor on the front-lines and see how healthcare, insurance companies and the government short-changed them. Where was the justification for five-year waiting lists for simple procedures that would improve functionality to allow a person live life to the fullest? Ivankovich started the Chicago Musculoskeletal Initiative (ChiMSI) . . . to make health care for the poor a basic human right.
He attended top post-grad fellowships, programs at RUSH (Adult Joint Reconstruction), Northwestern (Adult Spine Trauma) & Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (Spinal Cord Injury). Ivankovich established orthopedic outreach and patient education programs at virtually all of Chicago’s safety-net hospitals. He raised almost $1,000,000 in committed grants and services to grow clinics and provide staffing. Dan Ivankovich could be clearing a cushy salary treating sports injuries and backaches. He could have a stream of well-to-do patients in a plush suburban office during the week and kick back on Sundays. Instead, he chooses to hustle at the inner city and underserved hospitals. He’s seen over a hundred thousand patients, performed over a five thousand surgeries in communities that never had this type of service . . . ever: pediatrics, trauma, joint reconstruction and spine surgery. He treats the needy, provides specialty care for degenerated joints, broken bones, gunshot wounds, for victims and victimizers alike, the underserved of the ghetto.
He strides into hospital lobbies in a sweet black leather cowboy hat and goatee. He understands the pain his patients suffer, having personally undergone thirteen knee surgeries himself. Because of this, a unique ride was necessary for comfort as well as street credibility while navigating the rough & tumble streets of the ‘hood’.
During his residency, he drove a 1968 Pontiac Bonneville military ambulance, but he’s upgraded to a fine set of wheels as his daily ride, a souped-up 2008 black Jeep Cherokee SRT with 22” rims. Then there’s the “Bone Mobile”, a righteous jet-black 2007 Dodge Magnum SRT street-rod with 550 horsepower, the envy of every adult male on the South & West sides. With extra legroom, Lamborghini & suicide doors, 24” DUB rims, under-car neon lights and a 2000-watt amplifier with plasma displays, it’s the BOMB ! !
Dan Ivankovich is a well-known public figure. In March 2010 he was featured on the American Spirit segment in Katie Couric’s CBS evening news in addition to numerous segments in both print and broadcast media.
After the devastating earthquake in January 2010, he traveled to Haiti on his own expense to treat the countless victims pulled from the rubble, taking special interest in the spinal cord injured patients he found laying in makeshift tents. Through a series of miracles and moxie, he cut through mountains of red tape and personally escorted two such patients, Bazelais Suy and Josette Delisca, back to the States for top-notch care, a feat that was covered by newscasts all over the country and will soon be documented in an international story by the Associated Press.
Shortly after his return from Haiti, Dan was honored by the National Social Workers Association as the 2010 Public Citizen of the Year. He was invited to give the commencement speech at his alma mater, Glenbrook South High School, where he spoke about the value of bucking the status quo, thinking for oneself, and paying forward one’s good fortune. He was also voted 2010 Alumnus of the Year by his Fraternity, Beta Theta Pi, Rho Chapter, at Northwestern University.
Several documentaries are currently in the works chronicling his life story and humanitarian missions. He is co-writing an inspiring memoir, along with his newfound Haitian brother, Bazelais Suy, recounting the events before, during, and after the catastrophic quake. Perhaps most entertaining of all, stay tuned for the graphic novel, The Rev. Doctor D and his sharp-tongued sidekick, Harmonia. This will be the perfect medium for Dan Ivankovich to act out his darkest dreams in the guise of the Byronic antihero that dwells in his soul.
With all of his variable expertise, there is a connecting thread. Whether squeezing a blue note out of his six-string, preaching on the day’s relevant social issues, or wielding a scalpel with skill and precision, the street rules his reality. Dan Ivankovich does it all with a street-savvy hipness and honesty, integrity that’s nearly extinct in today’s climate of inequitable health care policies, greed, corruption, and injustice. He’s bluesman, healer, shaman & philosopher, and, as Bo Diddley said about Ivankovich’s blues alter ego, The Right Reverend, Doctor D, “one of the craziest %$#@! I’ve ever met. He ain’t from this planet.”
“The Right Reverend, Doctor D”, Chicago blues veteran with an imposing 7-foot frame. He’s destined to become a legend, if he isn’t one already.
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