Dr. John Richard Sosnowski, a longtime Charleston physician who championed a Swiss movement to treat both the body and the spiritual soul, died late Thursday. He was 92.
Born July 27, 1921, in Charleston, he was a son of John F. Sosnowski Jr. and Eliza Skinner Sosnowski. He was raised on Bugby Plantation on Wadmalaw Island, where he lived at the time of his death.
Sosnowski studied chemistry and medicine at Clemson University. He graduated in 1942. He then served two years in the Army Medical Corps after graduating from the Medical University of South Carolina in 1945.
He completed his medical residency training in gynecology and obstetrics at Roper Hospital. In an interview with this newspaper in 1977, Sosnowski said he was motivated to become a gynecologist because his mother suffered and survived “gynecological cancer” when he was studying to become a doctor.
He was a partner in the Charleston ob-gyn practice of Rivers, Wilson and Sosnowski, and delivered thousands of babies around the Lowcountry. He was also instrumental in bringing Swiss physician Paul Tournier’s “The Meaning of Persons” movement to the United States and the local medical community. The philosophy encourages health care providers to minister to the whole patient, both body and soul.
“No matter how our practice of health care is regulated, manipulated and pressured, the patient, and more specifically the whole person of the patient — mind, body and spirit — is our personal cause,” he told the National Association of Advisors for Health Professions during the opening speech of the group’s annual conference in 1987.
Sosnowski was named to the Roper Hospital Board of Commissioners in 1961 and was appointed the medical education director of Roper and St. Francis Xavier hospitals in 1974. He also worked as a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at MUSC and was assistant dean of the College of Medicine.
“Dr. Sosnowski was a much beloved faculty member and administrator at the Medical University,” said former MUSC President Ray Greenberg. “He epitomized the expression ‘a gentleman and a scholar’ and he was one of the most caring role models on campus. He will be deeply missed.”
A former president of the S.C. Obstetrical and Gynecological Society, Sosnowski fought before the General Assembly in 1970 to successfully change the state’s abortion laws to include cases of rape and incest. Previously, a woman in South Carolina could have an abortion only if delivering her baby would endanger her life.
“I’ve known Dr. Sosnowski since I was a medical student in 1958 and ’59, more than 50 years,” said Dr. Layton McCurdy, retired dean of the College of Medicine. “He was in those days for me and others a marvelous teacher. He was a man that emanated kindness and that kindess ... extended to both students and especially patients.”
For decades, Sosnowski was an active member of St. Michael’s Church in Charleston, where, in 1967, he was elected senior warden. He also was a member of several medical associations, the Carolina Yacht Club and the Sea Island Yacht Club.
He is survived by his wife, Elizabeth Wright Tyson Sosnowski; a daughter, Elizabeth T. Sosnowski; two sons, John S. Sosnowski (Patti) and Chris Sosnowski; former daughter-in-law, Janet Sosnowski; a brother, the Rev. Fred S. Sosnowski (Polly); and four granddaughters.
Arrangements are being handled by Stuhr’s. Check back for information on services.
Reach Lauren Sausser at 937-5598.
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