By Suzanne Elliott
Florencio Cardenas retired recently after working for more than 40 years at Uniontown Hospital.
Even though Cardenas, now 77, no longer makes daily rounds at the hospital, the former urologist — who goes by Floyd — remains popular with his former coworkers. Beloved almost.
“We miss you Floyd,” one said to Cardena’s and his wife Ann while they were in the hospital coffee shop one recent Monday morning.
“Hi, Floyd. You’re looking good.”
“Call me, Ann. We need to have dinner.”
Cardenas is the first to admit that retirement has taken some getting used to. Getting to sleep in is a bonus, but he admitted he misses his patients and his coworkers.
“It is wonderful to have him home, but it has been an adjustment,” Ann said. But the extra time is also giving Cardenas time to think about a book he wants to write on how doctors handle getting older. And he would have a great story to tell.
“I like to say I came to the United States the same time the Beatles did,” he said. “But they were more popular.”
Even as a young boy, Cardenas said he knew he would go into medicine. He had relatives who were doctors and he was curious. An added bonus was the fact his mother was an English teacher.
“I would open up bugs so I could look at their insides,” he said.
After earning his medical degree in 1963 from the University of Santo Tomas in Manila, Cardenas said he wanted additional medical training.
“I wanted to go to the United States or Canada,” he said.
Ultimately, he chose the United States and worked at hospitals in Somerset, New Jersey and Washington, D.C.
And when it came time for his residency, he found himself at West Penn Hospital in the Bloomfield section of Pittsburgh.
“I liked Pittsburgh,” he said. “It wasn’t too big.”
Cardenas said he was befriended by two urologists during his residency. When it came time to select a specialty, he chose urology, the study of the urinary tract and the male reproductive system.
And fate intervened on a personal level for Cardenas while at West Penn Hospital. He met Ann, an emergency room nurse and Brownsville native. The two shared a love of dancing, became friends and married in 1967 at St. Peter’s Church in Brownville, the same church Ann’s mother and grandmother were married in.
“We had an international wedding,” she said. “We had a Brazilian, an Indian and a Jew there.”
Cardenas said marriage ruled out any plans he might have had of returning to his native Philippines.
“I couldn’t take her to a poor country,” said Cardenas, adding that because he did not look like the average American, he had to work harder to prove himself.
“I ruined his plans,” Ann laughed. “But, we connected like soul mates.”
When it came time to set up a medical practice, Cardenas was recruited to Uniontown Hospital, which had an opening for an urologist.
Floyd and Ann moved to Uniontown in 1969.
“Back then, it was hard,” Ann said of the move. “The doctors were older.”
But after the couple adopted their children, Mera and Jason, things got better.
“It sort of opened up,” Ann said. With two young children, Ann stopped working and became a fulltime mother. Cardenas, meanwhile, joined the practice of Alfred Wright, a Uniontown urologist. The couple began meeting friends and getting adjusted to life as a young family in Uniontown.
“He loves to laugh,” said Bob Garrett, who has known and played golf with Floyd Cardenas for more than 20 years. “He is a pretty good dancer too.”
“Our wives had a good time,” said Sam Sheehan of Uniontown, another close friend.
Ann said when her two children were young, she had them sit at the top of the steps Christmas morning and wait for Floyd to return home from his hospital rounds so they could open presents in front of their father.
But for Cardenas, the patients were always the top priority.
“It was gratifying to see patients get better,” Cardenas said. “I loved my patients.”
Ann said her husband had a patient who relocated to Florida. He stays in touch and even sends Cardenas test results from his Florida doctors to see if he got the right diagnosis.
“He was a dedicated physician,” Ann said. “The patients always came first.”