Ernie J. Chaney, MD

Ernie Joe Chaney, M.D. passed away on May 16, 2024. He was 96. He was born December 28, 1927, in Frontenac, Kansas to Elbert Zenith Johnson and Louise Elizabeth (Richards) Johnson. When he was very young, Elbert and Louise divorced and he was adopted by Louise’s second husband, Tom Chaney.

Ernie was a 1945 graduate of Pittsburg High School in Pittsburg, Kansas. He served our country in the United States Navy from 1945 through 1947, when he was honorably discharged. In August of 1951, he married his forever soulmate, Margie Lee (Hall) Chaney of Wellington, Kansas. He attended Wichita State University and was accepted into the University of Kansas Medical School after three years of undergraduate studies. Margie worked to support them both while he attended KU medical school in Kansas City, graduating in 1956. After graduation Ernie and Margie moved to Tacoma, Washington, where he interned for a year at Tacoma General Hospital.

In 1957, he and Herb Doubek, M.D., a medical school classmate, were recruited and moved to Belleville, Kansas to start a family medical practice. It was called “Chaney & Doubek, MDs.” The name was alleged to have been decided by the flip of a coin. Ernie and Herb had a genuine family practice: stitching wounds, setting broken bones, counseling patients’ mental health needs, and delivering countless babies in the North Central Kansas area. It was rare for Dr. Chaney to sleep through the night.

In his earliest days as a young country doctor, Ernie made firm commitments to his patients, to medicine, and to medical education.

In the 1960s and 70s, he took his wife and three young boys on medical mission trips to the mountains of Guatemala one summer and then to Honduras a few summers later.

From 1970 to 1983, while practicing medicine in Belleville, Dr. Chaney was a Clinical Associate Professor of Family Medicine at the University of Kansas School of Medicine in both Kansas City and Wichita. He staunchly advocated that family physicians should have a specialty of their own and testified in support of that proposition in Kansas and in Washington, D.C. He served as the President of the Kansas Academy of Family Physicians in 1970.

In 1981 he was elected as the President of the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), the second largest medical organization in the United States. One of his greatest honors was to serve as a representative of all the family physicians of America.

From 1987 to 1990, Dr. Chaney was president of the Family Health Foundation of America, the forerunner of the American Academy of Family Physicians Foundation (AAFP-F). Only a small handful of physicians have ever served as president of both organizations.

In 1983, Ernie and Margie left Belleville and moved to Wichita, Kansas where he became an Associate Professor of Family Medicine at the University of Kansas School of Medicine in Wichita, Kansas. In 1988 he was promoted to Professor. Teaching future family physicians was his passion. From 1983 until his retirement in 1994 he was the program director of the University of Kansas School of Medicine- Wichita Family Practice Residency at Via Christi-St Joseph in Wichita. In May of 1996, he came out of retirement to serve as the interim chair of the Department of Family and Community Medicine, a post he held until he re-retired in January of 1997.

Dr. Chaney was board certified in family practice by the American Academy of Family Practice and the American Board of Family Practice and he held a Certificate of Added Qualifications in Geriatric Medicine. In 1991, he was awarded the Victor North, M.D., “Outstanding Teacher in the Specialty of Family Medicine” by vote of the residents of the St. Joseph Family Practice Residency. He was a member of many other professional organizations.

Over his career in medicine and academics Dr. Chaney taught at numerous professional state and national meetings and authored many scientific papers in his field.

He was an avid and unreasonable KU sports fan. For years, as a young family doctor in Belleville he was a “KU Ambassador,” which meant that he and the family hosted members of the KU football team when they came through Belleville during summers to attend the annual KU football banquet and try to sell KU season football tickets. To the thrill of the young Chaney boys and many of the youth in Belleville, they hosted such players as Bobby Douglas, John Riggins, David Jaynes, and others.

Ernie was a wonderful and devoted husband, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather. He was optimistic by nature and known for his quick wit and sense of humor. He told friends and family that anything he was able to experience after dancing at his granddaughter’s wedding would be icing on the cake. After that, he danced at his grandson’s wedding, was able to attend basketball, soccer and baseball games of his great-grandson, and soccer games and ballet recitals of his great-granddaughter. He was also present as his grandchildren graduated from college and law school and obtained masters’ degrees. He stressed the importance of education to his children. He was the first in his family to go to college.

Most of all Ernie loved Margie and raising the three boys with her. They travelled to all 50 states when he was the President of the AAFP. They loved attending parties and dances with lifelong friends over the years. In the 80s, Ernie and Margie purchased a second home at Rancho Viejo, Texas to spend more time with their grandchildren, Katie, Stuart, Liz, and Mac Chaney, who they adored. They both loved South Texas, its people, culture, and especially its winters.

The family is grateful for the caregivers of Keep Living at Home (KLAH) for allowing Ernie to remain independent and at home for as long as possible and to the people of Neuvant House for the superb care they provided after he could no longer live independently.

Ernie is survived by his son, Mitchell (Susan) of Ingram, Texas and Lawrence, Kansas; daughter-in-law, Lecia Elliott Chaney (Stuart) of Kingwood, Texas; granddaughter, Katie Czyz (Joe) of Lenexa, Kansas; grandson, James Stuart Chaney (Robin) of Austin, Texas; granddaughter, Liz Chaney of Denver, Colorado; grandson, Elliot McClain Chaney of God Knows Where, and great-grandchildren Cannon and Clara Czyz. He was preceded in death by his parents, his two older brothers James and Robert, his wife, Margie and sons, James Robert, and Stuart Andrew.

Online condolences may be made here at the Rumsey-Yost Funeral Home website.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that memorial contributions be sent to KU Endowment, 1010 N. Kansas St., Wichita, KS 67214 (memo: Ernie and Margie Chaney Fund). Online contributions may be made at www.kuendowment.org/givenow , in the choose area(s) section select “other” and in the “other purpose” text box enter “Ernie and Margie Chaney Fund.”

A Celebration of Life Service for Dr. Chaney will be held on June 22, 2024, at 10:30 A.M., at First Christian Church Lawrence, 1000 Kentucky Street, Lawrence, Kansas 66044. Lunch in the Fellowship Hall to follow.

Messages & Condolences

From Harold Tretbar MD Tucson Arizona...

Further research shows that Ernie and Marge had an apartment closer to the Med School and that Don MacLeod and wife were in May’s other apartment.

From Harold Tretbar MD Tucson Arizona...

Classmates of KU Med 1956. John May bought an old house near the school and divided it into 2 apartments downstairs and 1 upstairs. John and Betty May were next to Marge and Ernie Chaney, while I, Lee Johnson and Gil Sechrist were upstairs. We had 4 great years together.

From Cynthia Nash, MD, MA (Bioethics)...

Dr. Chaney was a powerhouse of a Program Director. No one could top his energy level. He challenged his residents and held them accountable, yet was always quick to defend them. He was an amazing advocate for Family Medicine, and prided himself in shaping his residents into physicians with competence and grit. I’m thankful I was able to train under him.

From Fred Kennedy...

From Rancho Viejo. Texas. Fred & Judy Kennedy expresses our condolences. Many times I would see Ernie setting on his back porch when I would be driving my golf cart home- to stop and talk to Ernie for 30 min or more was a blessing to me- missed him when he moved back. Thankful for memories 🙏🏻🙏🏻

From Bradley King MD...

Dr Chaney was an inspiration to me and helped shape my career. He helped me get through a tough time. He was warm and energetic and touched so many lives. I am so thankful to have known him. May the Lord give comfort to his family and may he rest in peace.

From Harry Simpson...

Fair winds and following seas sailor. “Boatswain… Standby to pipe the side… Shipmate’s going Ashore…” Thank you Dr. Chaney for your service to this nation. U.S. Navy.

From Joel Hornung...

Reading Dr. Chaney’s Obituary reminds me once again of his greatness. So gracious and kind, yet so influential and hard charging. He accomplished a great deal for Family Medicine and for Kansas. Thanks for being such a great leader of us all.

From Maurice...

My condolences to the family. Dr. Chaney’s way of calling each us “chief” I learned was a clever way of not trying to memorize all the residents’ names. Rest in Heaven Chief!

From Rick Kellerman...

We all have our “Ernie Stories.” I have many. I remember the first time I met him. I was doing my rural rotation in January 1981 in Mankato Kansas and we were following an OB in labor in the Belleville hospital. It was the middle of the night and the patient needed a C-Section, so we mobilized the troops. Richard Kimball MD was chief surgeon; Herb Doubek was first assistant; Ernie was giving anesthesia and wide-eyed Rick Kellerman MS4 was the second assistant. I remember Ernie entering the room in a flurry. I don’t remember actually talking to him, but that was the first of many future encounters. Somewhere in Republic County, Kansas there is a 43 year-old man who we delivered that night. By the way, I was wide-eyed because the surgery was performed under local anesthesia with ketamine as a dissociative anesthetic. Rest in Peace, Ernie. We already miss you!

From Rhonda and Tony Rodriguez...

Ernie was indeed a very special man and will be missed by all that knew him. Our sincerely condolences to the Chaney family.

From Carolyn N Gaughan...

I worked with Dr Chaney during my tenure as Executive Director of the Kansas Academy of Family Physicians. He was a great mentor, teacher and friend. My sincere condolences to the family.

From Tom Girard...

Dr. Chaney was such a great person to be around. Always funny and full of energy. So many memories as a kid watching him wiz around town in his green sports car. Such a great influence on my life growing up in Belleville!

From Bain Cate...

Legendary, classic, quintessential Family Medicine doctor, family man, and all-around nice guy. Always had a good word to say about everybody. I came all the way from Texas to train at St. Joseph in Wichita because of Ernie, and I am and always will be grateful for that short 3-year time with the St. Joe residency family. Looking forward to seeing you and Margie up in heaven in the future. Ernie, you lived a great life.

From Kelly Christensen...

Chief Chaney had energy beyond measure. He was a powerful mentor for all of the family practice residents who were lucky enough to attend St Joe’s. What a great man.

From Carolyn. Lyttle...

So sorry for your great loss.

From Dwight Adams...

I was a classmate of Ernie’s in medical school and enjoyed living near by for a short time at Brandon Woods. He was well known here at Brandon Woods as he used his golf cart to walk his dog. A really nice guy.

From Dan wilber...

He will be greatly missed. He was never impressed by Stuart and I antics, may God bless you all

From Harriet Shaffer...

Ernie was such a gentleman and I enjoyed lunches with him at Brandon Woods some years ago. He was humble and so kind — I knew he was a physician but am not surprised that his professional life was extensive and varied. I am thankful to have known him. My sympathy to his family.

From Don and Holly Abshire...

Extremely sorry for your loss. He sounded like an amazing man who lived an amazing life and left an amazing legacy. Your family will be in our prayers.

From Eduardo Roberto Rodriguez...

Truly a great American. An awesome and decent human who cared for others throughout his life. I will always cherish our visits and conversations. He lovedBasketball season because he knew that his beloved Jayhawks would generally beat UT. He never called during football season. I will miss this great MAN. Condolences and prayers for the family.

From Bridget Neubauer...

An amazing man and great friend to us all.

From Castella Tomas...

The greatest friend ever for me and my wife, Good bless him

From Rob Czyz...

My sympathy to family and friends. Amazing person to have met. May he rest peacefully.

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