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Being selected to fill a vacancy as Portage County coroner is the fulfillment of a long-held desire for Dr. Dean DePerro.
He was named in mid-January by the county Democratic Party central committee to serve until a successor to Dr. Roger Marcial could be elected in November. Marcial retired at the end of 2013 after holding the post for 21 years.
DePerro is running unopposed in the Democratic primary May 6, and no Republican or independent candidates have filed to oppose him in November.
"Following Marcial, for me, is a huge task. I hope to build on what he has built as a representative of ethics, integrity and involvement," DePerro said.
DePerro is from Austintown. He's a graduate of Austintown Fitch High School and Youngstown State University. He graduated from the College of Osteopathic Medicine in Philadelphia, Pa.
DePerro said he knew he wanted to be a doctor in the fourth grade.
"I had allergies as a kid," he said. His family doctor took him under his wing. "I found I had an appetite for medicine," he said. While attending YSU, he worked at St. Elizabeth's Hospital mortuary as an assistant to the pathologist, which sparked an interest in the study and diagnosis of disease.
Other summer jobs included working as a construction laborer.
While working at St. Elizabeth's, he met his future wife, who was a secretary and ward clerk in the neonatal intensive care unit. He and his wife Denise moved to Kent 13 years ago when he finished his residency at Summa. His first job was at Robinson Memorial Hospital in Ravenna, he said.
He said he thinks of himself as a family man first. "My wife and I have a bond. With her support I feel I can do anything," he said.
HE OPENED his practice in town before moving it to Barberton. DePerro said he spends most of his time in nursing homes doing long-term care and geriatric medicine. He's also spent 11 years as a hospice doctor.
DePerro said his family has put down roots in Kent. "I always envisioned myself in a little town ... we love it. Being a college town, there's lots to do," he said.
DePerro said he considers himself part of the community. "I take a lot of pride in telling people I'm from Kent and Portage County. I'm concerned about community affairs," he said
He and his wife have two sons -- Dean Jr., 24, and Albert, 21, both students at Kent State University. DePerro said both young men are "interested in pre-med," but it's up to them if they want to go into medicine, he said. Both sons are also Eagle Scouts.
DePerro said he's alarmed at the growing use of heroin among young people. "With tighter restrictions on prescription drugs, people are turning to other drugs," with deadly results, DePerro said.
As coroner, DePerro said he hopes to speak on a number of public health issues. That includes talking to high school students about the dangers of texting and driving, or encourage young people to not get involved in dangerous activities.
Last year there were more than 22 fatal drug overdoses in Portage in 2013. Many of them are attributed to heroin use, which Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine has called a state epidemic.
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