Lifelong Naugatuck resident Dr. Robert Matusz has volunteered at the Chase Clinic since 1978, the same year he opened his own podiatry practice on Meadow Street.
At the free clinic, Matusz sees diabetic patients and others with common foot problems and infections, but have little or no health insurance. Some of those underinsured patients also see him at his practice, Naugatuck Podiatry Associates.
“It’s something I’ve done for years. It’s a give-back to the community. … I take care of patients no matter what kind of insurance they have,” Matusz said.
Now the Waterbury Regional Chamber Health Care Council will recognize Matusz’ years of work June 22 at the 6th annual Members’ Breakfast and Awards Ceremony in Southbury. Matusz will receive the Unsung Hero Award.
The Chamber awards the honor to someone who has distinguished him or herself through exceptional care, compassion, and commitment in their everyday work and life, according to Courtney Ligi, event and program coordinator for the Chamber.
She said the award is for someone who works behind the scenes to help, without seeking recognition, usually a doctor, nurse or therapist.
Although he appreciates the honor, Matusz would have preferred to remain unsung.
“It’s an oxymoron. If you’re an unsung hero, you shouldn’t be sung,” he said. “I don’t like having a lot of attention brought to me.”
Matusz said his work brings him all the personal satisfaction he needs.
“What you give out comes back to you anyways,” Matusz said.
Matusz was nominated for the award by Matt Burgard, director of public relations at Waterbury Hospital. Burgard said he nominated Matusz because he’s just a great guy and he’s been doing a lot of work behind the scenes for a long time without being noticed.
Over the last 20 years, Matusz had dedicated hundreds of free hours to people who couldn’t otherwise afford foot care.
“That’s just a really remarkable thing to do,” Burgard said.
Matusz has worked in the Waterbury Hospital’s surgical services department for the past three years in addition to his duties at his practice in Naugatuck. He also works as a consultant at the Griffin Hospital.
“I’ve met him numerous times and I know he’s the type of person who isn’t looking for that recognition but definitely gives back to the community,” Ligi said.
Matusz pointed to three doctors who practiced near him as his mentors—Dr. Leo Tylec, William Hill Jr. MD, and Evertt Rogers, DDS, all of which had practices in Naugatuck for 50 years.
“These gentleman were the old-school, hardworking practitioners that just came to work every day and ground it out. They didn’t ask for any recognition. They just enjoyed helping people,” Matusz said.
All three passed away in the past year or two.
“I looked up to them as part of the way you should practice and how you should treat people,” Matusz said. “They were constantly available to their patients. That’s what I’m trying also to do with my patients. If you aren’t around, you can’t be a decent practitioner.”
Matusz had tried to instill those same values in the doctors rotating through his practice throughout the years.
“It’s not always about the money. It’s not always about insurances. It should be about personal satisfaction … you have to enjoy what you’re doing,” he said.