Dr. Michael Dee Iseman, 83, of Denver, Colorado, passed away on November 20, 2022 after a brief battle with cancer.
Mike was born on March 3, 1939 to Manny & Eileen Iseman in St. Paul, Minnesota. He spent his formative years in Fremont, Nebraska, where he met his wife to be, Joan, when they were in junior high (he was the only boy taller than her). He earned a history degree from Princeton University followed by a medical degree from Columbia Physicians and Surgeons. Mike served two years in the US Navy in Hawaii, after which he settled down in Denver, Colorado to raise his family and practice medicine.
Mike was an accomplished athlete and took lifelong joy from sports. He excelled in high school, earning all-state honors in four sports and being named Nebraska high School Athlete of the Year, and later being inducted into the Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame. As an All-American football player, Mike was heavily recruited, including a visit from Army football legend Doc Blanchard and a call from the Governor of Nebraska, telling him it was his “patriotic duty” to play for Nebraska. In the end, he chose Princeton University because the coach’s wife promised to bake him chocolate chip cookies every week (and she did). He starred on the Tiger football team, lettered in track, and won a restaurant’s competitive eating contest by downing nine hamburgers in 10 minutes (after eating full lunches at two dining halls on campus earlier that day). At Columbia he took up rugby, being named to the All-Decade Rugby team and the legendary Old Blue Hall of Fame. In his 40s, he was persuaded to try crew and went on to win a masters world championship with the esteemed Team YOFRA. Even in his 70s, Mike was often spotted pumping iron at the Greenwood Athletic Club.
When he wasn’t playing, he was coaching or cheering, helming his sons’ Little League teams and taking them to Chili’s after the game, win or lose. He was a lifelong Denver baseball fan, supporting the Bears and Zephyrs before being a 25-yr season ticket holder of the Rockies. His passion for sport led him to exchange emails with the Rockies’ owner for over 10-years, proposing trades, scouting the farm system and discussing the merits of bunting at Coors Field.
But he was more than a jock. Mike served on the faculty for the University of Colorado Medical School and headed up the Tuberculosis program at National Jewish Hospital. Over his career, he traveled to thirty-eight countries, 47 states and wrote the definitive textbook on the subject. His career accolades include being named one of America’s Top Doctors for over a decade, being inducted into the Halls of Fame for the American Thoracic Society and his hospital, National Jewish.
But, more important than the accolades, were the patients. He often dealt with the most challenging cases from around the country, people who had exhausted treatment options elsewhere. He prided himself on making patients feel more human and treating them with dignity and empathy. The holidays were marked with cards from countless people thanking Mike for giving them another chance at life.
He was also a great husband and father. He married Joan Christensen in 1963 and they went on to have two children, Thomas and Matthew. Whenever he got home from work, he’d play catch with his boys till the sun went down. Mike learned to keep score while attending his sons’ games so he wouldn’t question the ocular ability of the officials. Mike always made clear that his greatest blessing was, without question, Joan. She made their home, raised the boys and nurtured him, and managed their finances. As he said, “I had my medical career, and she did everything else.” 59 years of marriage and she remained his best friend and breakfast buddy (they had a regular table at Perkins!).
Mike was blessed by fortunate affiliations and friendships throughout all phases of his life: in Nebraska, where he learned values, foundation, and family; at Princeton, where he made lasting friendships and he was a trustee for the University; in the Navy, where he served out of Pearl Harbor and later in the National Guard in Colorado (where he took great pride in his marksmanship); and at National Jewish, where he cared for patients and helped to build a nationally recognized program in pulmonary medicine.
Mike is survived by wife Joan, sister Toni, sons Matt and Tom, daughter-in-law Alexandra and grand-daughter Claire. A Celebration of Life will be held at the Village Club in December, details to follow. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to National Jewish Hospital.
A Celebration of Life will be held at the Village Club on Thursday, December 15th from 1-5pm with words of remembrance at 3pm.