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JTHS Alumni Spotlight: Dr. John M. Sayles

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Dr. John M. Sayles

Dr. John M. Sayles is a successful surgeon who graduated from Joliet West High School in 1981, earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Northwestern University, and earned a medical degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago. 

He is now the medical staff president and colorectal surgeon at Sentara Leigh Hospital in Norfolk, Virginia.

After earning his medical degree, Sayles served in the Army for 12 years, completing two tours in Germany as a surgeon and head of a fast response team. His team was assigned to Kenya, where he assisted in operations after the bombing of the embassy.

Sayles was also stationed at Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo, which was located on the route that planes would take when they returned home to their carrier bases after a bombing run.

The physicians at Camp Bondsteel were stationed to give medical aid to pilots who may have been hurt on their way back to the carrier. No U.S. planes were shot down, so Sayles spent most of his time caring for the local Serbs who had stepped on land mines.

These experiences were reported in the Chicago Tribune and The Herald-News and featured in a Life magazine article.

After returning from Germany, Sayles served as chief resident at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C. Sayles completed an additional residency at the Lahey Clinic in Boston and joined the ranks of colorectal surgeons.

Sayles recently spoke at the ground-breaking ceremony for the new Sentara Leigh Hospital Cancer Center.

During his remarks, Dr. Sayles cited his mother, Martha, and several women from a Joliet Quilting Group, including Marie Blunk, a retired Joliet math teacher.

Sayles said in his speech, “Several years ago, my mom was looking for a project for her group and I suggested making a cancer-focused quilt using all of the different cancer ribbons. The quilting group researched, looked at all of their options, talked to other quilters throughout the country, and came up with a beautiful quilt.

“The quilt now hangs in our front office desk area for all the patients to see as they enter. To me, the quilt, and the team effort required to make it, truly represents the team effort that goes into cancer care.”