LAWRENCE – The University of Kansas is mourning the death of Dr. Douglas Dechairo, director of Watkins Health Services, who died May 26 at the age of 78.
Dechairo was a life-long Jayhawk who attended KU for his undergraduate and medical degrees. After serving in the U.S. Navy, he had a medical practice in California for more than 30 years before returning to Lawrence for what was supposed to be his retirement. But retirement didn’t stick for the always energetic doctor, and in 2011 he joined Watkins as a part-time physician before becoming Watkins’ full-time director in 2013. Dechairo served in that capacity until March 2019, when he stepped away from the role due to his declining health.
“Dr. Dechairo was a talented and compassionate doctor, an inspirational leader for Watkins Health Services and a Jayhawk to the core,” said Chancellor Douglas A. Girod. “He approached his work with boundless enthusiasm and an unwavering commitment to our students’ well-being. Moreover, he was as friendly and kind-hearted a man as you could ever hope to know. He cared deeply about this university, and KU is a better place because of him. On behalf of the university community, I extend my condolences to his family, friends and colleagues.”
A celebration of Dechairo's life is planned for July 20 at his home.
Those who would like to honor Dechairo’s life are encouraged to support the Watkins Health Services Development Fund, which benefits specific student health-focused initiatives identified by Dechairo.
Diana Malott has been named interim director of Watkins Health Services. More information about the process for identifying a new permanent director will be shared soon.