Posted on Nov 23, 2012 by Steve Kagen

In Loving Memory of
Marv Kagen M.D.

April 11th, 1918 – November 23rd, 2012

Marv Kagen, M.D. always reassured his family he would live forever; he had the right idea, living 94 
years from April 11, 1918 until November 23, 2012. Marv grew up during the Great Depression in Chicago, Illinois in the back room of his parent’s Kagen Drug Store.  When he could see over the counter, he went to work greeting customers with his life-long trademark: “Glad to see you. How may I help you?”

Marv was always agreeable and kind, believing the customer was always right, and that every disagreement could be resolved with two words: “You’re right.” He had a great sense of humor, formed as a youngster watching comedy shows in Chicago theaters.

He served in the U.S. Coast Guard and Public Health Service during WW-II, and in 1948 Marv and his wife, Virginia, moved to Appleton, as the first dermatologist north of Milwaukee. Dr. Kagen loved serving people and was a founding member of the Wisconsin Dermatological Society and active in the American Academy of Dermatology.

Marv was a standup guy, organizing people for civil rights beginning in the 1940s. When ordered by his superior officer to flunk all “colored” candidates for 
the Merchant Marine and Coast Guard, he responded, 
“I will not do that.”  Several days later, Dr. Kagen was 
sent to sea on the USS Calloway.  In the 1960s, Marv and his entire family marched with Martin Luther King, Jr. in Chicago promoting Peace and Civil Rights for all.

Marv Kagen helped found the Democratic Party of Wisconsin with his friends Gaylord Nelson and Bill Proxmire, commenting, “I may be well-off, but I 
have never been rich enough to be a Republican.”

Dr. Kagen was opposed to making war, and he ran for Congress against our involvement in Vietnam in 1966, saying later it was the greatest challenge he had ever taken on. Kagen was also a champion of our environment, as Appleton Health Commissioner in 1959, he was the first to ban indiscriminate use of DDT.

Marv married trial attorney Mary Lou Robinson in 1974, and together they served the needs of their community on issues of social justice, conservation and community health for four decades.

In 1992, Marv and his son, Steve, began their campaign to guarantee access to health care for everyone. They sought to make health care a Civil Right by outlawing the 
common insurance company practice of discriminating 
against patients with pre-existing medical conditions –
and after 18 years of effort, they succeeded with enactment of our nation’s new health care law in 2010.

When asked what he enjoyed most in life, Marv Kagen said, “That’s easy. Everyday I would go downtown to my office and see the richest and the poorest people in town, and I’d give them 
all the same treatment at the same price. Nothing beats making people feel better.”

Dr. Marv Kagen was so loving and kind to everyone; he was always reassuringly positive to his family, his friends and his patients.  He told his children he had 
a sign on his forehead, “You can handle it.”

Marv loved helping people, and his loving phrase 
lives on in our minds: “Be kind to yourself, and if you force anything force a smile.”


Marv Kagen Speaks…

 On Life

“The purpose of life is to find the purpose.”

“Be kind to thy beloved self; never do anything to hurt yourself.”

“If you force anything, force a smile.”

“Everything in life is temporary. So, relax and enjoy it.”

 On Education

“Study, study, study. Read, read, read.”

“Tuition will always be your best investment.”

“Shoot for the A, and settle for the B.”

“An educated population is more prosperous and peaceful.”

“Education is a life-long process; your education never really ends.”

“Any society that fails to educate all their children will cease to exist.”

On Confidence

“I am 93 and just getting started.”

“I’m taking in nourishment everyday, trying to keep my head above water.”

“Do your best and be content, for no one can do better than one’s best.”

“You can handle it!”

On Mankind

“Human beings are protoplasmic, problem solving animals.”

“Hopefully, in life you will solve more problems than you create.”

“If you force anything, force a smile.”

“The real enemies of Mankind are Ignorance, Fear, Superstition and Disease.”

On Listening

“Everyone has something they feel is important. Find out what it is.”

On Business

“If it’s good for business, it’s going to happen; I just want it to be legal.”

“Don’t do business with your family– it changes everything.”

“Be sure to get paid before the tears of gratitude run dry.”

On Money

“If you see something you like and you have the money, buy it. If you see something you like and you don’t have the money, don’t buy it. That’s all you need to know about money.”

“Money is just a way of keeping score.”

“Money is a problem solver; if you have a problem, throw money at it and the problem disappears.””

“Save ½ of the money you take home, and live on ¼ of it. The other ¼ is called piss money – life is short, have some fun.”

On Winning

“You will win every argument with two words: ‘You’re Right.'”

“Or you can win by agreeing in one word: ‘Exactly.'”

On Thinking

“Always think things all the way through; half-baked opinions are expensive.”

“When reading anything, always ask yourself three questions: What does it say; what does it mean; and is it true?”

On Being Kind

“Be kind to yourself, then at least one person in the world will be happy.”

On Love

“Love is attentive appreciation.”

“The need for love is a bottomless pit.”

“Reassure. Reassure. Reassure.”

“The most precious gift you can give someone is your time.”

On Children

“A child’s job is to ask for things; a parent’s job is to respond, ‘Thanks for asking.'”

On War

“Talk them out of making war; we can’t afford war in the nuclear age.”

On Truth

“Truth is a matter of one’s angle of vision; to understand something, look at it from all sides.”

On Government

“Government determines who gets what piece of the pie.”

“We need leaders at all levels of government with good judgment.”

On the Blues

“Everyone has the blues some time in life; good thing the blues are temporary.”

On Mistakes

“I hope all your mistakes are inexpensive.”

On Advice

“Unsolicited advice is seldom appreciated.”

On Being a Physician

“Do only what is best for the patient, not the hospital administrator, not the insurance company or even the patient’s family.”

“The patient must always be the center of the universe.”