GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- One of Grand Rapids' most well known doctors is retiring after nearly 40 years with Spectrum Health.
Dr. Samuel Lacina was the first board-certified pediatric cardiologist at Butterworth Hospital. On Wednesday, he celebrated his retirement at Helen DeVos Children's Hospital surrounded by coworkers and former patients.
Thirty-seven years ago, Lacina was told not to go to Grand Rapids because the city would never turn into anything. He decided to go to anyway. After seeing thousands of patients in his years with Spectrum, he's hanging up his white coat and getting ready to enjoy retirement.
"It's great that I have a job I'm actually going to miss, not a job that I hated," said Lacina.
Four-year-old Brayden Haveman was one of Dr. Lacina's patients. Born with a heart defect, Braydon is here today thanks to Dr. Lacina.
"Seeing Dr. Lacina go is bittersweet," said Brayden's mom, Paula Haveman.
Lacina says when he started as an intern in 1975.
"It's more than I could've imagined when I was told not to come to Grand Rapids and that it'll end my career," said Lacina. "I was told I won't have a career in Grand Rapids."
But Lacina decided to stay. Now other doctors call him a legend for helping transform the Medical Mile into what it is today.
"He started everything that we have here now today," said Dr. Marcus Haw, chief of cardiothoracic surgery. "We owe an awful lot to this man."
"He's just always been a sweet, caring guy," said Wendy Alderink, a life-long patient of Dr. Lacina's. "He always feels like he wants to take care of you. He's sincere. I know some doctors are busy and they run in and out of whatever, but he just always took the time to listen and explain everything."
"He's touched the whole community of children and adults," said Haveman.
"I'm sad, but happy," said Lacina. "These are tears of joy."
Dr. Lacina's patients are going to be able to see other cardiologists at the congenital heart center.
Lacina is staying in Grand Rapids and says he's going to enjoy his retirement and spend time with his family.