Ottawa's 'vasectomy king' reflects on the past 30 years — and why he called it a career
Dr. Ron Weiss was diagnosed with cancer in 2020
If you're a man of a certain age living in the Ottawa area, there's a good chance you've already met Dr. Ron Weiss.
Over the past three decades, Weiss has performed tens of thousands of non-invasive, needle-free vasectomies at his Clemow Avenue clinic in the Glebe.
He's had sports teams trickle in as word spread through the locker room of his kinder, gentler procedures. An entire crew of welders from Arnprior, Ont., once sought out his services, thanking him later with a special token: screw nuts welded to a big pair of scissors.
Men no longer interested in having children have made long drives from such places as North Bay and Timmins.
But after a cancer diagnosis early in the COVID-19 pandemic, the man known as "no-slice Weiss," the "Wayne Gretzky of vasectomies" and the "vasectomy king" has been gradually winding down his practice.
He's now preparing to leave Ottawa to spend what time he has left with his children, grandchildren and extended family in Toronto.
"I have mixed feelings. Ottawa's the best-kept secret in the country," he told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning last week. "I was extremely fortunate and lucky to have the opportunity to have my career here, and raise my family here."
'As happy and fun as possible'
That career began in the early 1990s, when Weiss — who was originally a family physician — got interested in learning the art of the vasectomy, first the traditional way, then a less-invasive method that lowered complication rates and "took off like a mushroom cloud."
He knows exactly how many procedures he's performed over the years: a staggering 58,789 vasectomies, as of his official retirement in June 2021.
"We made it as happy and fun as possible. We really did. There was a lot of tongue-in-cheek [humour]," he said. "It was always like that, and word gets around. And that's what happened with us."
Over the years — and especially with the mass marketing of erectile dysfunction drug Viagara — men have also gradually become more open about talking about their sexual health, Weiss said.
"[It's] the same with vasectomies. It wasn't something that my father's generation would have talked about in the locker room, but it's certainly something that they talk about now."
Weiss had planned to work until he was 70, but when the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in 2020 he temporarily closed his clinic that March.
During the ensuing sabbatical, Weiss turned to other interests, like learning Spanish and pursuing his guitar playing. But at the same time, he started feeling tired. After one particularly hot Ottawa day, he lay down for a nap and woke to find he was having problems speaking.
Weiss thought he was in the midst of a stroke, but scans revealed he actually had a brain tumour. It was a glioblastoma, the same kind of incurable cancer that killed Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie in 2017.
Practice was a good fit
After surgery to remove the tumour, Weiss underwent chemotherapy and radiation.
With the average length of survival for someone diagnosed with a glioblastoma at around 18 months, he decided in 2021 it was time to wind down his practice, selling it to a colleague he'd already been training.
"I started to feel I'd been lucky so far, but I don't know how much time I'm going to have left. And maybe I should wrap things up." Weiss said.
So far, he's beat those grim predictions and says he's in good shape to make it to the three-year mark, something that's "not unheard of but unusual."
As he reflects on those thousands of vasectomies, Weiss says he wasn't really driven by any great vision to improve sexual health or ensure men took on more of a role in family planning.
Instead, it was just something he knew he was good at.
"I think that my hands being small and strong [from] playing guitar, [performing] vasectomies just fitted me in a certain way," he said. "I did it because I enjoyed it and felt good."