Robert Coles: An American Odyssey
BY PETER WORTSMAN
"ALWAYS LIVE IN A NEIGHBORHOOD WHERE YOUR NEIGHBORS teach you, that's where you do your real learning." That's advice from Robert Coles'54, the child psychiatrist cum documentary writer.
In a rambling life that took him across the country from bastions of privilege to pockets of poverty and back, from the Deep South to the Rust Belt up North, from the dusty adobe hamlets of the Southwest and the remote hollows of Appalachia to the ivy-lined halls of Harvard, he has looked, listened, and learned.
In his many books, notably his Pulitzer Prize-winning five-volume classic study, "Children of Crisis," he has woven the wisdom gleaned into a talking patchwork quilt, a lyrical log book of the American condition.
A widower, at age 75 his pace has slackened some but the restless spirit endures. "I'd do it again without hesitating a second," Dr. Coles says. "In fact, I'll read about something going on and I'll say to myself: If I had another life I'd be there, including, by the way, in Iraq, talking to the kids."
These days his neighbors are the trees of the Concord woods behind his old yellow frame house (the same woods that whispered their secrets to Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau), the children from the school across the way, and the vivid memories of departed friends.
To enter his study is to enter a kind of secular shrine. The walls are papered with the photographs of kindred spirits to whom he pays homage, not by lighting candles, but by writing books. It's a veritable Who's Who of soul searchers of the 20th century. There's Sigmund and Anna Freud, the father and daughter of psychoanalysis, the latter a trailblazer in her work with children and his friend and mentor. Erik Erikson and William Carlos Williams, two more friends and influences, hang frame to frame. Down wall a ways hang the Southern scribes Walker Percy (P&S'41), Flannery O'Connor, and James Agee, all likewise the subjects of his published reflections. Intermingled among the writers are religious thinkers and doers: Dorothy Day, co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement; Simone Weil, the French mystic-activist; and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German pastor who died bravely resisting Hitler. Political activist Bobby Kennedy, with whom Bob Coles battled for the welfare of America's poorest children, has his place of honor on the wall, as does singer-songwriter Bruce Springsteen, another friend and the subject of Dr. Coles' most recent book. (Springsteen sang two benefit concerts that raised $1 million to support the documentary magazine DoubleTake, which Dr. Coles founded and to which he is deeply committed.)
Meeting Dr. Williams
Born in Boston in 1928 into a family of some means, young Bob Coles attended the prestigious Boy's Latin School and went on to Harvard, where he majored in English. A professor urged him to send a term paper he had written on the poet William Carlos Williams to its subject. "Dear Mr. Coles," the subject promptly replied to the flabbergasted undergrad. "Thank you for your paper on me. Not bad for a Harvard student!" He added a P.S.: "Please, if you're in the neighborhood, come by and say hello."
"Well, I went down there to Rutherford, N.J., and he was so good to me," Dr. Coles recalls. "He took me around to meet his patients." Dr. Williams' world, in which, as the poet once put it, "medicine and the poem ... amount for me to nearly the same thing," became for his young protege the paradigm of the kind of life he wanted to live.
Years later, Dr. Coles had occasion to pay a literary tribute to his old mentor as the editor of "The Doctor Stories of William Carlos Williams." Dr. Coles is currently literally following in Dr. Williams' footsteps in collaboration with photographer Tom Roma on a documentary project to see what became of the working class New Jersey neighborhoods where he practiced and of which he wrote.
Encouraged by Dr. Williams to pursue the study of medicine, Coles was admitted to P&S. But biochemistry and dissecting cadavers were not exactly what the doctor ordered. Medical school proved a bit of a rocky ride, lightened some by the kindness of a few professors, notably Yale Kneeland Jr.'26, professor of medicine. A distinguished researcher in respiratory diseases, a legendary teacher and a man of consummate culture, Dr. Kneeland sprinkled a little Tolstoy, Dostoyevski, and Melville into his scintillating medical lectures. "You'll be all right!" he reassured the struggling erstwhile English major. Rustin McIntosh, professor of pediatrics and head of Babies Hospital, another benign influence, inspired Coles to work with children.
Meanwhile, in his extra-medical life, he took the city and its environs as his expanded school and living textbook. An avid walker, like his English-born father, he combed the streets and haunted the museums, visiting Dr. Williams on weekends. Keen to mine the spiritual side of life, he audited courses taught by the noted theologian Reinhold Niebuhr at the Union Theological Seminary. He also made time to volunteer at the Catholic Worker soup kitchen on the Lower East Side and came to know the movement's co-founder, religious and social activist Dorothy Day. Looking back in his book, "Dorothy Day, A Radical Devotion," 1987, he wrote how she "was constantly noticing people, constantly ready to engage with them, and let them become, even for a few moments, part of her life." Dr. Coles took her wisdom to heart and put it to practice.
Initially opting for pediatrics, he subsequently trained in child psychiatry at Children's Hospital in Boston and pursued a teaching fellowship in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. It was the height of the polio epidemic of the late 1950s before the vaccine and doctors could do little but listen and try to relieve the physical and psychological suffering. Finding children "paralyzed by fear as well as the polio virus," Dr. Coles introduced crayons to help break the silence, thereby facilitating the release of what he called "an inarticulate eloquence that of visual representation." By releasing that halting eloquence, he helped his desperate little patients tap the strength to face life and the disease. For Coles, that early experience of confronting fear and paralysis later leapt to mind in the face of another kind of scourge, a social disease called segregation that would mark him forever and change the course of his life and work.
Color Me Equal: Talking to the "Crayola Man"
The year was 1960. The place was New Orleans. A federal court had issued a deadline for school integration and a battle of wills was about to begin between the howling mob and a few brave children. Fulfilling his military service in the U.S. Air Force, Dr. Coles was stationed at Keesler Air Force Base hospital in Biloxi, Miss., as chief of the neuropsychiatric service and wards. He often drove into New Orleans to attend a medical conference, eat a good meal, and escape the strictures of military life.
One day, the police blocked his way. "Captain, you can't go into town." Annoyed at the obstruction, he parked his car and walked over to where a crowd had gathered. "That was when I saw that little black girl, Ruby Bridges, 6 years old at the time" he shuts his eyes and shakes his head, the smile lines stretching into psychic scars "being practically carried into a school building by federal marshals. And I saw a mob screaming at her that they were going to kill her. She was paralyzed with fear. I kept connecting her with the kids with polio I met in the Children's Hospital and I said to myself, I'm supposed to know something about stress in children and I thought, I'd like to meet this girl."
With the help of the local chapter of the NAACP, he eventually did meet Ruby and the three other black children, the little pioneers of school desegregation in New Orleans. And he and his late wife, Jane, a school teacher, became part of their world. The children took to calling him "The Crayola Man," on account of the crayons he brought to interviews along with the tape recorder. And together, the doctor and the children traded secrets and tried to unravel the tentacles of angst that held their world in a straitjacket.
"If it hadn't been for that moment and meeting Ruby and the others, my whole life would have been different," he insists. "I was lucky to be there when their world and mine changed forever. If I had studied segregation in a textbook I would have learned nothing." But luck was linked to a firm resolve and a willing ear. "I knew how to listen," he says of his ability to connect with the children, "and I knew how to make some sense of what they were saying. I never came across as a shrink. I came across, I think, as a doctor who cared about children."
Ruby Bridges put it another way. "Dr. Coles always seems as if he's just about ready to grow up," she said to his wife, Jane. "You want to know a secret, Ruby?" his wife replied. "I don't think he's ever going to grow up!" He relishes the memory, laughing out loud in the telling. "If you are going to work with children, there has to be a part of you, one hopes and prays, that's still in touch with what their lives are about." Coles later wrote a popular picture book for children called "The Story of Ruby Bridges." In her own memoir, "Through My Eyes," Ms. Bridges, now a lecturer, included a dedication: "To Bob Coles, who in my mind is the vessel God used to keep my story alive."
His interviews and experiences in New Orleans with black as well as white school children and their parents and later, in Atlanta, where he met with older black youths integrating high schools, formed the basis of his celebrated book, "Children of Crisis." Which, he is quick to add, "I never knowingly set out to write."
A Young Psychiatrist Looks at His Profession (and Society Too)
Back in Boston to visit family, he griped to a friend who worked for Atlantic Monthly magazine about the state of psychiatry. The friend urged him to describe what he was saying. The resulting article, "A Young Psychiatrist Looks at His Profession," appeared in a special issue on Psychiatry in America. "When the heart dies, we [psychiatrists] slip into wordy and doctrinaire caricatures of life," he wrote. "Our journals, our habits of talk become cluttered with jargon. ... We embrace icy reasoning." Needless to say, the article made waves. It also loosened the fledgling author's literary flood gates. He decided then and there to forgo a medical practice, went back to the South with his wife, and kept on listening and writing.
"I wouldn't have done this work or lived this life if I hadn't married my wife," he shakes his head, clearly torn between joy at her memory and abiding sadness at her loss. The former Jane Hallowell died of a brain tumor in 1993. "What kind of marriage begins where the wife says to the husband instead of ‘Let's buy a home' ‘You don't like a lot of things you see happening around you, so why don't you do something about it?'" A teacher of history and literature, she also collaborated with him on the two volumes of "Women of Crisis."
Another influence came into his life in the form of a letter. "Dear Mr. Coles," the letter said. "I understand that you're doing this work with children. ... I'd like to meet you if you're ever up in the Cambridge area." It was signed E.H. Erikson, Harvard University.
On his next trip north, Dr. Coles met the sender, renowned child psychiatrist Erik Erikson, and the two became fast friends. Erikson encouraged Coles to gather his observations into a book.
"Children of Crisis, A Study of Courage and Fear," volume one of his celebrated five-volume study, made an immediate splash upon its appearance in 1967, lauded in the New York Times Book Review by novelist Walker Percy'41 (later to become a friend and the subject of another book). That same year Dr. Coles was approached by Sen. Robert Kennedy, to whom he became a trusted adviser on questions of child welfare, hunger, and health, issues on which Dr. Coles, on Sen. Kennedy's prompting, testified before Congress. Among his proudest memories is having drafted the last speech the senator delivered in his run for the Democratic nomination for president before he was assassinated.
In 1972, Dr. Coles was the subject of a Time Magazine cover story on "America's Forgotten Children." In 1973 he received the Pulitzer Prize for the second and third volumes of "Children of Crisis."
In the early 1970s, Dr. Coles and his family moved to New Mexico, in part to escape his newfound celebrity. The move also allowed him to explore new vistas. He calls the years in the Southwest among the happiest in his life. Field work done during this period found its way into another volume of "Children of Crisis" as well as "The Old Ones of New Mexico," a book produced in collaboration with photographer Alex Harris, which many, including Dr. Coles, consider some of his finest writing. "It's full of what I learned from these people and the dignity and beauty in their language and their land oh my God!"
"Storytelling is the Heart and Soul of Medicine"
Robert Coles is the rarest kind of "clinical" writer, unafraid to get personal and speak from the heart. He has alternately described himself as "a doctor, child psychiatrist, oral historian, social anthropologist, teacher, friend, storyteller, busybody, and nuisance." Avoiding academic jargon and dogmatic social theory, rejecting social stereotypes, his prose leaps across disciplines, issues, and classes, blending lyricism and an eye for the telling detail. Consider this passage from "Una Anciana," originally published as a profile for the New Yorker and later included in "The Old Ones of New Mexico:"
- "Once he was measured as exactly six feet
tall, but that was half a century ago. He is
sure that he has lost at least an inch or
two. Sometimes, when his wife has grown
impatient with his slouch, and told him
to straighten up, he does her suggestion
one better and tilts himself backward. Now
are you happy? he seems to be asking
her, and she smiles indulgently."
This is not your typical patient history, but it is a patient history all the same. All his books can be read as compilations of patient histories alive with the words and gestures of real people with real complaints, some that show, some nestled in hidden corners of the heart that need to be coaxed out by a respectful listener. The stories themselves are the medicine, the healing ointment for the teller, the listener, and the reader.
"Healers make sense of stories, that's what a healer does," Coles insists. "A healer, after all, gets a statement from the person hoping to be healed that tells what the problem is. Healers are listeners who then tell a story back. Storytelling is not the heart and soul of the treatment of the patient, but it's the heart and soul of medicine insofar as medicine has to do with two people telling stories to one another, the patient speaking, the doctor responding."
As he has for more than four decades, he rises early every morning with the birds and still writes in longhand, filling up lined yellow pads on an old-fashioned clipboard of the sort his mother gave him when he was in elementary school "to order words." With the aid of a reel-to-reel tape recorder in the past and now mostly from memory, he spills out the voices he has gathered up. "I've spent my life becoming a voice for other people who are struggling with trying to explain who they are." One of his projects involves compiling his Harvard lectures into a book.
A "Migrant Teacher"
Though an avowed autodidact when it comes to his working method "I never took a course in documentary work or anthropology or social science" he has relished teaching. It was Erik Erikson who brought him back to Harvard, first as a research psychiatrist and an assistant in Erikson's course, later as an instructor in his own right. In 1977, Harvard Medical School named him professor of psychiatry and medical humanities. To that title Harvard University added in 1995 that of James Agee Professor of Social Ethics. He "wandered like a migrant teacher," as he likes to put it, lecturing or, rather, engaging students, in almost every division of the university, including the schools of business, medicine, education, and law and the extension school. His legendary course at Harvard College, "The Literature of Social Reflection," popularly known as "Guilt 105," drew up to 1,000 registered attendees before his official retirement from teaching in 2003.
He also taught elementary school and high school and, more recently, invited high school teachers to visit the offices of DoubleTake, the magazine of documentary writing and art that he created in 1995, "to amplify their formal teaching."
James Freedman, the president of Dartmouth, calls him "a rare, rare American." Educator and sociologist Amitai Etzioni dubs him "a national treasure." Encomia have flooded in from all directions. In addition to the Pulitzer Prize, he is the recipient of a John D. and Catharine MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, the National Medal of Freedom (awarded by President Clinton), the Presidential National Medal for the Humanities (awarded by President George W. Bush), the Ralph Waldo Emerson Prize of Phi Beta Kappa, the Hofheimer Award of the American Psychiatric Association, and the Gold Medal for Distinguished Achievements in Medicine of the P&S Alumni Association, to name only a few.
Author of some 65 books (with five more in galleys), more than 1,500 articles and essays, father of three (an orthopedic surgeon, a pediatrician, and a teacher-photographer), and grandfather of four, he still likes to think of himself as a wanderer at heart.
Profiles in Giving
Former Merck CEO To Help Define the Future
BY PETER WORTSMAN
P. Roy Vagelos'54
"YOU WILL BE PRACTICING MEDICINE AND DOING YOUR RESEARCH in a time of dizzying change," P. Roy Vagelos'54, the 2004 P&S commencement speaker, told the graduating class, "and my only sorrow is that I can't start over again." Yet in a sense he is doing just that.
At age 74, when others prefer to focus on knocking little white balls around grassy fields, Dr. Vagelos is embarking on a bold new mission and a new adventure as chairman of Defining the Future, Columbia University Medical Center's ambitious $1 billion capital campaign. He also has been named chairman of a new advisory board created to help the dean realize the goals of a strategic plan to focus resources, capitalize on the school's unparalleled strengths, and take P&S to the top.
Rising to challenges and leading charges is nothing new to Dr. Vagelos. As he put it in his 2004 memoir, "Medicine, Science, and Merck" (co-authored with Louis Galambos): "My life is in many ways the classic American dream: Poor immigrants come to the United States and work very hard; their children receive an excellent education and lead a better life." That from the man who revolutionized biomedical education as chairman of biochemistry and founding director of the Division of Biology and Biomedical Sciences at Washington University's medical school in St. Louis and then went on to revolutionize pharmaceutical research and drug discovery as head of research and later CEO of Merck.
Upon his retirement from his leadership position with the pharmaceutical giant he brought the same dynamism to the University of Pennsylvania, his undergraduate alma mater, as chairman of the Board of Trustees.
Now it's Columbia's turn. A hands-on capital campaign chairman, his heart has always been with P&S. He spent countless hours meeting with faculty, students, and staff in all four schools of the medical center and in the graduate program. "I believe that P&S is one of the great medical schools of the world and has always been," he says. "And today, we have some of the best scientists and faculty in the country, for sure. We also attract some of the very finest students. But I know that our ranking as a medical school has slipped because other institutions have moved more aggressively in some fields and taken the lead. But we have unparalleled strengths in areas like the neurosciences. We need to build on these strengths and establish world dominance and at the same time bring other areas of strength, like computational and structural biology, to the top and with them the whole institution."
As Dean Gerald Fischbach put it, officially welcoming Dr. Vagelos back home: "He sees the same glorious past and enormous potential at CUMC that we all do on our best days. We are lucky to have him."
Dr. Vagelos has long been a loyal alumnus and staunch supporter of P&S, contributing to multiple areas, including scholarships. Most recently, he and his wife, Diana, pledged $750,000 as a challenge to his Class of 1954 classmates, who matched that amount for a record total of $1.5 million to endow a Class of 1954 Scholarship Fund. In addition, he has pledged all the proceeds from the sale of his memoir to P&S.
"We're changing the face of medicine here," he says, "and I'm thrilled to be a part of it."
Rx for Travel
Normandy: On the Beaches of D-Day and Beyond
BY PETER WORTSMAN
American military cemetery at Colleville, Normandy
IT TAKES THE BREATH AWAY TO STAND NEAR THE EDGE OF THE CLIFF at Pointe-du-Hoc, in Normandy, peering down at the vertical crag of rock that 225 specially trained American Rangers scaled at dawn on D-Day, June 6, 1944. Only 90 men made it to the top, but they succeeded in taking out a strategically vital German artillery battery and ultimately helped save the day.
The view of the sea and the coastline, including the fabled Omaha Beach, is serenely picturesque with sea-gulls soaring and sailboats bobbing where once the sky was rent with the thunder of war and the foamy deep darkened with the largest armada ever assembled. History whispers in the grassy knolls pockmarked with craters and the collapsed blockhouses with twisted cannons pointing skyward. P&S graduates played important roles here as part of the military campaign
Normandy, France's lush western province on the Atlantic coast, is a peaceful paradise today, planted with apple orchards dedicated to the distillation of calvados, the famous apple brandy, and lined with vintage half-timbered homes along shady hedgerows and country lanes. But memory makes the mood bittersweet. At St.-Laurent-sur-Mer and Colleville, the fields are planted with a different kind of crop. The white marble crosses and Stars of David at the American military cemeteries stretch almost as far as the eye can see. The British, Canadians, and Germans also have their sad fields of remembrance.
The experience was particularly emotional for my family when we visited in August 2003. My wife is a French native and I am the son of Austrian-Jewish refugees. Our world would not look the same nor would we be around to enjoy it had it not been for D-Day.
The local place names are the stuff of legend now: Arromanche, where Winston Churchill assembled a floating port; Utah, Omaha, Gold, Sword, and Juno beaches, where so many men fell; and Ste-Mère-Église, where an American flier got his parachute caught on the church tower and watched the battle while dangling from above. Each place has its moving monument and museum. A bit pressed for time, we hightailed it to Le Mémorial de Caen (www.memorial-caen.fr
), a large modern museum opened in 1988 and located on the Esplanade Dwight Eisenhower, just outside the medieval ramparts of Caen. The powerful documentary film shown here brings home the drama of D-Day and a well documented permanent installation recounts the events leading up to the rise of Nazism and the occupation of France.
Shuttling between the centuries, it behooves the visitor to take time out for gustatory respites. This is, after all, the birthplace of those creamy discs of Camembert cheese. Most local dishes, like veal cutlets "à la Normandie," are either bathed in cream or doused and flambéed in calvados, sometimes both. There's tender lamb from the salt meadows and the seafood tastes as if it leapt from the sea straight onto your plate. And no meal hereabouts is quite complete without Le Trou Normand, a chilled shot of calvados to revive the appetite between courses. We were wined and dined and bedded down quite happily at la Ferme de la Rançonnière (Tel. 02.31.22.21.73), a country inn in a 15th century manor house in the sleepy hamlet of Crepon. For more information, visit www.westernfrancetouristboard.com
or call 212-745-0975.
Alumni Reunion Weekend
||LEFT: Dean's Day moderator Carmen Ortiz-Neu'63 with panelists Brian Nolan'76, left, John K. Lattimer'38, and Col. Jonathan Newmark'78 RIGHT: John Wilsey'47
War and Peace: P&S Doctors on the Front Line
In observation of the 60th anniversary of D-Day in 2004, this year's Dean's Day Program on May 14 was devoted to the front-line service of P&S docs in war and peace. Wheelchair-bound though he was, the ever ebullient John K. Lattimer'38, professor and chairman emeritus of urology at P&S, and a D-Day veteran, held visiting alumni riveted with his slide show presentation on his World War II experience as a major in the U.S. Army Medical Corps. One highlight of the presentation that brought down the house was a slide of General Patton personally "irrigating" the Rhine. "He must have had a good urologist!" Dr. Lattimer joked.
John Wilsey'47, a former member of the surgery department at Greenwich Hospital in Connecticut and a veteran of the first MASH (Mobile Army Surgical Hospital) unit in the Korean conflict, likewise made history come alive in his slide talk. A retired major in the U.S. Army Medical Corps, Dr. Wilsey participated in the Inchon Invasion on Sept. 10, 1950. It was, he recalled, the first time patient evacuation took place in helicopters.
William J. Schneider'63 recounted with deep emotion his own experience as a major in the U.S. Army Medical Corps during the Vietnam War. Though opposed to the war, he served and told, among other sober experiences, of treating one soldier for malaria, sending him to Japan for treatment, OK'ing his return to combat, and later reading his name among the list of casualties in an enemy attack.
Brian Nolan'76, assistant clinical professor of surgery at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences and a colonel in the Medical Corps KvNG, spoke and showed slides of his service in Operation Desert Storm and the recent war in Iraq. The first ophthalmic surgeon ever to deploy to the combat zone with an operating microscope, he recounted the frightening experience of being on the receiving end of a Scud missile attack.
Col. Jonathan Newmark'78, chief of operations of Chemical Casualty Care and consultant to the Army Surgeon General for Chemical Casualty Care at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense, brought the proceedings chillingly up to date with an account of his role in the ongoing war on terror. A neurologist by training with a specialty in the medical response to chemical attack, he was deployed on multiple security missions, serves on support teams to government agencies, including the FBI, and remains on four-hour notice at all times via a special cell phone.
Allan G. Rosenfield'59, dean of the Mailman School of Public Health and the Delamar Professor of Public Health and Obstetrics and Gynecology, headed the second panel devoted to peace efforts with a sober look at "The Global AIDS Pandemic: A Focus on Women." Almost 50 percent of the victims of this world pandemic, he said, are women, ages 15 to 25. Some 10 million to 14 million AIDS orphans are the struggling survivors of decimated families in Sub-Saharan Africa.
In his talk, "Peaceful Efforts During War," Roy Brown'56, clinical professor of pediatrics and public health at Columbia, recounted his years of experience promoting nutrition in children in the developing world. He was also in Mississippi during the "War on Poverty" and participated in the creation of a farm to support health services.
Alan Felix'83, associate clinical professor of psychiatry at P&S, brought the discussion to our very doorstep in his talk on "The Critical Time Intervention: Ending Homelessness for Families and Individuals," a model he had a hand in developing. Reminding the audience that "90 percent of those on the street suffer from mental illness," he pointed out that "housing and rental assistance actually cost less than emergency shelters."
Alumni association president Shearwood McClelland'74 switched hats to expound upon his unique perspective on "Orthopaedics at an Inner-City Trauma Center." Dr. McClelland is associate professor of clinical orthopedic surgery at P&S and director of orthopedic surgery at Harlem Hospital. Most of the patients he treats at Harlem's trauma center are victims of musculoskeletal trauma, some with more than one orthopedic injury. George Nicklin'51, associate clinical professor of psychiatry at NYU, finished the session focusing on his role evacuating casualties as a medic during World War II and on his own war injuries suffered. "It's a learning experience to be injured this way. I knew what it was to be a patient facing a long hard problem." His talk was titled "Doctors in Peril: How They Cope."
Distinguished Women in Medicine Award
president Shearwood McClelland'74 with Margaret Morgan Lawrence'40
Alumni Association president Shearwood McClelland'74 presented the 2004 Virginia Kneeland Frantz'22 Distinguished Women in Medicine Award to Margaret Morgan Lawrence'40. The second African-American woman admitted to P&S, Dr. Lawrence, a pioneer in child psychiatry, helped found the developmental psychiatry service of the Division of Child Psychiatry at Harlem Hospital. Author of two classic texts, "Mental Health Teams in the School" and "Young Inner City Families," she was the first child psychiatrist to practice in Rockland County, N.Y., where she helped found the Community Mental Health Center.
Dean of Mailman School of Public Health Honored
At a luncheon following the Dean's Day Program, Kenneth A. Forde'59, chairman of the Honors and Awards Committee, presented a special recognition award to Allan G. Rosenfield'59, dean of Columbia's Mailman School of Public Health and the Delamar Professor of Public Health and Obstetrics and Gynecology.
Among the musical works performed at a concert in the Bard Hall Student Lounge was an original chamber ensemble piece composed by Ken Altman'54. Jay Lefkowitch'76 produced the concert.
The Class of 1954 Turns 50
Notable among the anniversary class parties at private clubs, restaurants, and residences all over town was the Class of 1954's cozy reunion at the Cosmopolitan Club. Class chairman Marvin M. Lipman, chief medical adviser to the Consumers Union (the folks that put out Consumer Reports), pulled it all together. He announced that, thanks to a challenge gift of $750,000 from Roy'54 and Diana Vagelos, the class gathered $1.5 million toward a scholarship fund. It was the first time 100 percent of a class contributed. Dean Gerald Fischbach dropped by for the ritual re-distribution of diplomas. Later, Dick O'Connor'54, professor of ophthalmology emeritus at the University of California, delivered a scintillating slide show on his archeological work with the Odyssey Project on the island of Ithaca in Greece. Psychiatrist and piano man Gene Goldberg'54 accompanied fellow psychiatrist and vocalist Ronee Herrmann'54 and others at an impromptu revival of the class show written by Dr. Goldberg.
Alumni Day Scientific Session
|Honorary Alumni Day Chairman James Wolff with Andrew Frantz'55
Alumni Day Chairman Andrew Frantz'55 kicked off the 2004 Scientific Session on May 15 with a salute to this year's Honorary Alumni Day Chairman, James Wolff, M.D., a renowned pediatric oncologist. Professor emeritus of pediatrics at P&S and founding director of the pediatric hematology division, Dr. Wolff was one of the early pioneers of the use of chemotherapy in treating childhood leukemia.
The following papers were delivered:
"Depth of Consciousness Monitoring is Changing Modern Anesthesia Practice," Donald M. Mathews'84, assistant professor of anesthesiology, New York Medical College.
"Noninvasive Ophthalmic Diagnostics for Celestial and Terrestrial Tele-Ophthalmology," Jerry Sebag'79, professor of clinical ophthalmology, Doheny Eye Institute, University of Southern California.
"New Developments in Atrial Fibrillation," James A. Reiffel'69, professor of clinical medicine, P&S.
"Minimally Invasive Total Hip Replacement," Thomas P. Sculco'69, professor and chief of orthopedic surgery, Weill Cornell Medical College, and surgeon-in-chief, Hospital for Special Surgery.
"Treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis with Cytokine Blocking Agents," William P. Arend'64, Scoville Professor of Rheumatology, University of Colorado School of Medicine.
"Spirituality As Part of the Medical School Curriculum," the Rev. Anne C. Brower'64, former professor and chairwoman of radiology, Eastern Virginia Medical School.
"Histone Deacetylase Inhibitors: Development as Cancer Therapy," Paul A. Marks'49, professor of medicine, Weill Cornell Medical College, and president emeritus, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.
"A Review of the Work of a Small U.S. NGO in Sub-Saharan Africa: Any Hope for the Future?" Martha M. MacGuffie'49, plastic surgery consultant, Rockland County Institute for the Physically Handicapped, and past director, High Tor Foundation Center Research Laboratory.
At a luncheon following the scientific session a special student recognition award was given to William V. Shappley III'04.
Gala Reception and Dinner Dance
|CLOCKWISE: 50th Anniversary Class chairman Marvin M. Lipman'54 tells it like it was; Richard J. Stock'47; John Merriam, M.D., and Mrs. Martha Merriam, the son and widow of the late George R. Merriam Jr.'41; Mary Jeanne Kreek'62 and her family
Later that evening, the Class of 2004, anniversary class members, family, and friends marked medical milestones in vintage splendor on the Art Deco Starlight Roof at the landmark Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. The formal program included talks by Marvin M. Lipman'54, Maureen Cafferty'79, William V. Shappley III'04, on behalf of the 50th and 25th anniversary classes and the proud graduates, respectively. "We set forth to cure the ills of humanity, each in his or her own way some with pills, some with scalpels, some through basic research, and others with a listening ear," Dr. Lipman said on behalf of the Class of 1954. "We were privileged to be the first class to whom [Nobel laureate] Dr. Eric Kandel presented his neurobiology class," said Dr. Cafferty on behalf of those 25 years out, "saluting all our outstanding teachers who made all this possible." And graduating class president William "Rusty" Shappley III reflected on "how much we've grown in four years," adding "it's a bit scary to think that we too will soon become P&S alumni."
Honors and Awards Committee chairman Kenneth Forde'59 presented gold medals to Mary Jeanne Kreek'62, professor and head of the Laboratory of the Biology of Addictive Diseases at Rockefeller University, who received the Medal for Distinguished Achievements in Medicine, in recognition of her lifelong work on the biology of addiction. Richard J. Stock'47, clinical professor emeritus of medicine at P&S, took the Medal for Excellence in Clinical Medicine. It was a bittersweet moment when the Medal for Meritorious Service to the College of Physicians and Surgeons and its Alumni went to the late George R. Merriam Jr.'41, who had been professor emeritus of clinical ophthalmology at P&S and a staunch supporter of the school. P&S Club president Kate H. Kraft'04 took the medal for a graduating student in recognition of her interest in and devotion to the school and the alumni.
Alumni Association Activities
"Breaking in" the piano donated by Jay Lefkowitch'76 was music to everyone's ears at the council dinner Jan. 22, 2004. Pathologist-teacher-artist-composer-philanthropist extraordinaire, Dr. Lefkowitch composed a "Fantasy Waltz" for the occasion, played by Noah DeGarmo'04. Hilary Spencer'06 joined him on the violin. Alumni Association president Shearwood McClelland introduced the evening's host, Dean Gerald Fischbach, who delivered his annual "state of academic affairs at P&S" address. Dean Fischbach cited Dr. Lefkowitch's gift as appropriately symbolic of the multitalented student body. He announced the kickoff of a capital campaign to raise $1 billion for new building and enhancement of the infrastructural support for education. Among the new initiatives he reported on were the Glenda Garvey'69 teaching academy and a planned new center in computational biology and bioinformatics. Times are tough for academic medicine, he reported, yet he remains optimistic that, with the help of alumni and friends, the medical school will rise to the top.
|Donald O. Quest'70
Guest speaker Donald O. Quest'70, the J. Lawrence Pool'32 Professor of Neurosurgery and vice chairman of neurological surgery at P&S, regaled attendees at the March 24, 2004, council dinner with an autobiographical sound-synchronized video presentation titled "Naval Aviation and Neurosurgery: Two Lives." In the video and in accompanying commentary Dr. Quest reflected on his experiences in the U.S. Navy and his service training on the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk. He compared the rigors and the thrill of flight training to those of neurosurgical training and noted, in both cases, the absolute need to "get things right the first (and only possible) time."
12th Annual Parents Day Program
On April 17, 2004, the people who pay the bills got a privileged peek at precisely what they are paying for: the adventure of learning medicine at P&S. As in past years, the 12th annual Parents Day Program was an open house, with members of the faculty, the administration, and the student body treating proud progenitors to a sweet dose of medicine. Carmen Ortiz-Neu'63, faculty member, alumna (and parent of alumna Natalie
|Parents Day 2004
Neu'91), officiated. She introduced Dean Gerald Fischbach who gave a warm welcome to parents, spouses, and significant others. It was only fitting that the guardian at the gate, Andrew G. Frantz'55, associate dean for admissions, kick off the program by reporting on the consistently high quality of the applicants and the diverse talents and abilities of the incoming class. Linda Lewis, M.D. Hon.'02, senior associate dean for student affairs, talked about student life. Hilda Hutcherson, M.D., associate dean for minority affairs and diversity, elaborated on the school's ongoing efforts to attract outstanding minority candidates. Ronald Drusin'66, associate dean for education, gave a briefing on the P&S curriculum. Ellen Spilker, director of student financial planning, spoke on the school's efforts to help parents pay the bills. Faculty presenters included Rita Charon, M.D., Ph.D., who spoke on the blossoming field of narrative medicine, and Ronald Reider, M.D., who described the residency selection process. Four students from the Class of 2005 Monjri Shah, Azadeh Azarbayejani, Christopher Kepler, and Ian McClure elaborated on the thrills and spills of the P&S experience. Resident historian John K. Lattimer'38 rounded out the program at lunch with a slide show and talk on the history of P&S.
Diversity Campaign Fundraiser
Co-owner and co-founder Dineo Khabele'94 flung open the doors and rolled out the welcome mat of the Sugar Hill Bistro in Harlem's historic Sugar Hill District in February for a fund-raising evening of cool jazz, conversation, and cocktails to benefit the P&S Campaign for Diversity. Campaign Committee chairwoman Brenda Aiken'81 elaborated on the goal of raising funds to reduce the cultural and financial burdens confronting deserving minority students at P&S. She reported on the success of the Diversity Mentoring Program, in which BALSO alumni and minority faculty have teamed up with 19 minority students to help them make the most of their medical school experience. Among the faculty present at the event were Spencer Amory, associate clinical professor of surgery; David Brenner, chairman of medicine; Thomas Morris'58, retired Alumni Professor of Clinical Medicine; Michael Shelanski, the Delafield Professor and Chairman of Pathology; and Gerald Thomson, retired Lambert Professor of Medicine. More than $6,000 was raised for the campaign.
Two Prominent Alumni Speak at Global Health Seminar
P. Roy Vagelos'54, retired chairman and CEO of Merck & Co., and Eve Slater'71, former U.S. assistant secretary for health, headlined a panel discussion on "Drug & Care Accessibility and Vaccine Development" at a global health seminar in March on the medical center campus.
Alive with the Sound of Music
Virtuoso violinist Midori charmed the children and invited guests at a Wintergarden concert at the Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital of New York-Presbyterian in June. By her uncanny ability to make the strings sing to receptive ears, Midori made selections by Mozart and other composers accessible for spellbound little patients and neighborhood school children. She was accompanied on piano by Peter Vinograde. The performance was filmed for live closed circuit TV broadcast to the rooms of bedridden children. The concert was produced by Midori & Friends, a nonprofit organization she founded in 1992 to bring musical education to underprivileged children. A reception following the concert was hosted by Clyde Wu'56, Columbia University trustee.
Brenda Aiken'81, a director of the P&S Alumni Association and chairwoman of the Campaign for Diversity, hosted an alumni dinner in conjunction with the annual meeting of the American College of Physicians in New Orleans in April. Dr. Aiken reports that this intimate gathering brought together visiting alumni from a range of classes, including Henry Mayer'39 and Jaya Raj'95. "We had a wonderful time," she says, "sharing stories about medicine, residency training, and P&S."
Distinguished Alumnus Named to Advisory Council
|Gerard M. Turino'48
BY PETER WORTSMAN
Gerard M. Turino'48, a nationally recognized leader in the basic and clinical scientific study of lung disease, has been appointed to the Columbia-Presbyterian Health Sciences Advisory Council.
The John H. Keating Professor Emeritus of Medicine at P&S, Dr. Turino is the founding director of the Mara Lung Center at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital, where he is chairman emeritus of medicine. He pursued his clinical training at the First Columbia Division at Bellevue Hospital, where he was named chief resident by Nobel Laureate Dickinson Richards'23. In 1954, following military service as a staff member at the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences, he completed a fellowship in cardiopulmonary medicine at Presbyterian Hospital then joined the Department of Medicine at P&S.
Dr. Turino's earliest studies focused on cellular and biochemical predispositions to lung injury, specifically the role of connective tissue elements in pulmonary mechanics. He and his P&S collaborators, Drs. Ines Mandl, Karl Meyer, Jerome Cantor, Bonnie Bray, and Phyllis Sampson, demonstrated the potency of elastases in degrading the elastic matrix of the lung. They were major contributors to the protease- antiprotease imbalance hypothesis as a cause for parenchymal destruction in pulmonary emphysema and the basis for much of the current research in this field. His more recent research on animal models, conducted in collaboration with Dr. Jerome Cantor, led to the development of a promising potential therapy for pulmonary emphysema.
A past president of the American Thoracic Society and president of the New York affiliate of the American Heart Association, Dr. Turino has received many honors, including the 2003 Edward Livingston Trudeau (P&S 1871, MS 1899, Hon. D. 1913) Medal of the American Thoracic Society and the American Lung Association; the 1980 American Heart Association Award of Merit; and the 1987 Gold Medal for Distinguished Achievements in Medicine of the P&S Alumni Association. He is a member of the Association of American Physicians and the American Society for Clinical Investigation. He is married to Dorothy Estes'50, also a P&S faculty member.
Established in 1981 by the trustees of Columbia University, the Advisory Council comprises distinguished members of the faculty and friends of the medical center. Its mission is to raise the profile of the institution and to build support for its scientific and educational endeavors.
BY MARIANNE WOLFF'52
T. BERRY BRAZELTON is doing consulting at the Harlem Children's Zone in the area of early intervention in child development and preventive pediatric care. He also consults with an HMO named Care Plus to try to make "our present medical system work in early prevention for families who are underserved."
Though no longer performing surgery, PHILIP D. WILSON JR. is still active at the Hospital for Special Surgery, contributing to teaching, research, and administration on a part-time basis. Located at the downtown campus of New York-Presbyterian Hospital, the Hospital for Special Surgery, an independent department of the Weill Cornell Medical College, is headed by THOMAS SCULCO'69.
After 50 years as director of health in Middlebury, Conn., WILLIAM P. ARNOLD JR. has announced his retirement. He holds the record as the oldest sitting director of health in his state.
EDWIN T. LONG is regional co-chair of the Kansas City, Mo., chapter of the Center for Practical Health Care Reform, a nonprofit, nonpartisan effort to stabilize health care and make it available for all in the United States.
Although he officially retired in 1998, IRWIN NYDICK is still the chief of cardiology at the Hospital for Special Surgery and a consultant at the UN. He teaches interns, residents, and medical students at Cornell three times a week. This includes his own personal bedside rounds, which emphasize physical diagnosis and the Atchley history, and integrating those with modern technology.
ROBERT N. BUTLER, founding director of the National Institute on Aging, received one of five Heinz Awards for the Human Condition. In 1976 he received a Pulitzer Prize for "Why Survive? Being Old in America." At the National Institute on Aging, part of the NIH, he fostered the development of geriatric medicine in the United States. He was also co-founder of the International Longevity Center, which studies the effects of greater life expectancy, not only on the individual but also on society as a whole; he is currently president and CEO of the center. In 2003 he presented a paper "Declaration of the Rights of Older Persons" at the UN World Assembly on Aging; this paper served as the framework for the Assembly's summary report.
As assistant clinical professor of medicine at Robert Wood Johnson School of Medicine, WILLIAM F. HAYNES teaches physical diagnosis and cardiology case studies, though he has been retired from office practice for six years. He recently co-authored a book, "Is there a God in Health Care?" with Geffrey Kelly, chairman of religion at La Salle University, the institution from which Bill earned a Th.M. degree in 2001. He still competes in U.S. masters swimming and is in the top 10 in backstroke in his age group. P. ROY VAGELOS signed copies of his 2004 memoir, "Medicine, Science and Merck," at the medical center in March. All proceeds from the sale of the book will benefit P&S scholarships.
RICHARD ELIAS, chairman of the Miami Heart Research Institute and chief of the Miami Heart Institute, was among the recipients of Columbia University's 2004 Alumni Federation Medal for Outstanding Service in May. Dr. Elias was honored for his active role in channeling the support of foundations and patients to his medical alma mater. A dynamic regional director for the Miami region since 1982, he has served as a member of the hospital/medical center's advisory council for the past 14 years.
Former chairman of microbiology and director of the Cancer Research Center at Boston University School of Medicine, PAUL H. BLACK has become professor emeritus. He keeps busy, writing on the new field of psychoneuroimmunology (the effect of the mind on the immune system).
Though officially retired, KARL H. PERZIN continues to teach medical students and pathology residents while continuing/completing his research projects. He is professor emeritus of clinical surgical pathology at P&S and also holds the title of consulting pathologist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital.
JESSE A. BLUMENTHAL is chief of the trauma service at St. Vincent's Hospital in New York City. "After 40 years at the NIH," JOOST J. OPPENHEIM regrets to say, " I still haven't finished my projects." He is now chief of an immunology laboratory at the National Cancer Institute. He says his wife of 42 years, four children, and seven grandchildren "represent a more concrete accomplishment."
After practicing urology for 33 years, IAN NISONSON retired. Along with his professional accomplishments, he is proud of his family; included are six graduates of Columbia College, one M.F.A., and his brother, BARTON, P&S 1966. In June 2004 NICHOLAS A. ROMAS received an honorary doctorate from the University of Athens.
ROLF H. BARTH, who resides in Columbus, Ohio, is doing research on "Molecular Targeting of the Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor for the Treatment of Brain Tumors," funded by a four-year grant from the NIH. Professor and chairman of family medicine and community health at Tufts University, HARRIS A. BERMAN loves the academic life, after having retired as CEO of the Tufts Health Plan. In his opinion, "much has changed since our days in medical school, mostly for the better." Having recently retired as vice president of academic affairs of the Atlantic Health System, STEPHEN F. WANG has been appointed executive in residence at the Center for Healthcare Management Studies at Fairleigh Dickinson University's Silberman College of Business at the Madison, N.J., campus. The center represents the only MBA program taught entirely in the context of health care. In 2002 Steve was the recipient of the John C. Leonard Award for National Leadership in Medical Education from the Association of Hospital Medical Education; he serves on the boards of a number of national and statewide health care organizations.
MICHAEL D. ISEMAN has announced that he will step down as head of the mycobacterial disease program at National Jewish Hospital in Denver. Although he plans to continue teaching, he will cut back on his clinical duties. He is working on the second edition of his book on tuberculosis. JAY A. LEVY received the Abbott Laboratories Award in Clinical and Diagnostic Immunology for 2004 at the meeting of the American Society for Microbiology. The prize recognizes Jay's extraordinary contributions in the field of viral immunity, including his independent discovery of the human immunodeficiency virus and his explication of cellular immune responses to HIV. He is professor of medicine and director of the Laboratory for Tumor and AIDS Virus Research at the University of California-San Francisco. Jay holds an honorary D.Sc. degree from Wesleyan University and he is a fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Following 28 years in academia, as professor and chief of maternal-fetal medicine in six American medical schools, RICHARD P. PERKINS is now in private practice in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
BARTON NISONSON is director of the sports medicine fellowship program at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York.
P. Roy Vagelos'54
|Alumnus Delivers P&S Commencement Address
On May 19, 2004, P. Roy Vagelos'54 addressed the hearts and minds of the graduating class at commencement. Dr. Vagelos, a former head of research then CEO and chairman of Merck & Co., recounted the scientific adventures of his high-profile career, notably his role in leading the search to develop an effective cholesterol-lowering agent through the use of recombinant technology. Looking back on the whirlwind of medical advances achieved in his time, he predicted great things to come. "When you reach 50 years," he said to the graduates, "you will look back and say, ‘Wasn't 2004 a time of primitive medicine?'"
In February 2004 the American Association of Geriatric Psychiatrists honored MURRAY A. RASKIND with its 2004 Senior Investigator Award for "research accomplishments that have substantially advanced the field of geriatric psychiatry and that have significant potential to improve the health and well-being of older Americans." Murray's research efforts have been in the field of the neuroendocrinology and psychopharmacology of Alzheimer's disease, aging, and noncognitive behavioral problems in dementia and posttraumatic stress disorder. Murray practices geriatric psychiatry "because it offers me the opportunity to use both my psychiatric and medical skills to help patients and, hopefully, learn something about the neurobiology of psychiatric disorders." Murray is professor and vice chairman of psychiatry and behavioral health sciences at the University of Washington and director of the mental health care system at the VA Puget Sound System.
The third book of poems by DONALD A. FEINFELD, "Rodin's Eyes," is due for publication this year. THOMAS SCULCO.
In addition to heading the Indiana Center for Prenatal Diagnosis, ROGER LENKE is chief medical officer for Beal Medical Corporation, an Internet company that is trying to change medical billing processes.
LINDA M. SACKS is a neonatologist in Savannah, Ga. In January 2004 she began a two-year term as president of the medical staff at Memorial Health University. She is the first woman to hold that position in the hospital's 49-year history.
Associate professor at Harvard Medical School, JOHN R. PETEET also serves as chairman of the American Psychiatric Association's Corresponding Committee on Religion, Spirituality and Psychiatry. He co-teaches a course for the Harvard psychiatry residency program called "Religion, Mental Health and Culture," which received a John Templeton Spirituality and Medicine Award in 1998. John is also associated with the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, where he is clinical director of psychiatry for the adult psychosocial oncology program. In December 2004 his book, "Doing the Right Thing: An Approach to Moral Issues in Mental Health Treatment," will be published by American Psychiatric Publishing.
Early in 2003 ELLISE DELPHIN became chairwoman of anesthesiology at UMDNJ. UMDNJ's University Hospital is the major level one trauma center in northern New Jersey and has 13,000 anesthetics administered annually in 12 operating rooms. Ellise has an MPH degree in health policy and management from Columbia. Before moving to UMDNJ she was professor of clinical anesthesiology at NYU, where she directed medical education and served as co-chief of cardiac and thoracic anesthesia services. In private life she is married to classmate ERIC ROSE, chairman of surgery and associate dean at P&S. They have four children.
While continuing on the medical faculty of the U.S. Uniformed Health Services in Bethesda, Md., MARK A. HOFFMAN practices law full time. He received his J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1999 and his L.L.M. in trial advocacy from Temple University's law school in 2004. He is a medical malpractice attorney.
RONALD P. GRELSAMER's latest book, "What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Hip and Knee Replacement Surgery," published by Warner Books in April 2004, joins his four previous books on orthopedic topics. Ron is chief of hip and knee reconstruction at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn and is also on the staffs of NYU Medical Center and the Hospital for Joint Diseases' Orthopedic Institute. He is one of "America's Top Doctors" and "Best Doctors in New York" and has appeared on a number of television programs.
A medical oncologist, STACY R. NERENSTONE shares a practice with classmate BOB SIEGEL. She served a four-year term on the Oncology Drug Advisory Committee of the FDA, two of them as chairwoman. Stacy participates in clinical research, mainly involving breast and gynecological malignancies.
Elected chief of pediatrics at the North Texas Hospital for Children at Medical City Dallas, JOEL A. WEINTHAL also serves as the director of the stem cell laboratory there.
HENRY DAVISON JR. is serving a two-year term as president of the medical staff at the University Medical Center at Princeton. For the fifth or sixth time his name has appeared in the Castle-Connolly Guide as one of New Jersey's "top docs."
JEFFERY A. ASCHERMAN has been appointed chief of the Columbia University Medical Center plastic surgery site. Jeff's special interests are craniofacial surgery for congenital malformations, pediatric reconstructive surgery, and breast and cosmetic surgery.
JOHN MCCABE, who received his D.D.S. from Columbia's dental school in 1985 before graduating from P&S in 1990, was named chairman of oral and maxillofacial surgery at Creighton University Medical Center in Omaha this past spring.
Assistant professor of pediatrics at Thomas Jefferson Medical College, ESTHER K. CHUNG is on the staff of the A.Z. duPont Hospital for Children in Philadelphia. Esther, her husband, and two daughters make their home in Swarthmore, Pa.
JANET DICKERMAN PEARL is director of the newly accredited fellowship program in pain management at Cavitas-St. Elizabeth's Medical Center in Boston.
An expert in pancreatico-biliary surgery, PATRICK JACKSON has joined the Department of Surgery at Georgetown University. His surgical training was at Massachusetts General Hospital, where he was chief surgical resident. This was followed by a fellowship in laparoscopic surgery. Pat is a member of the American College of Surgeons and the Society of American Gastrointestinal Endoscopic Surgeons.
FRANK S. DAVID, who received a Ph.D. from Columbia in 2001, is doing a research postdoctoral fellowship in pathology at Brigham & Women's Hospital in Boston, where his wife, JULIE LIN, is an attending in the renal division. Frank and Julie are the proud parents of a 5-year-old son and an infant daughter.
Doctors in Print:
Turning Back the Clock Can Be Hazardous to Your Health
"Younger" BY Judith Sulzberger'49 Apple Tree Productions, 2003, 257 pages
REVIEWED BY PETER WORTSMAN
The uses and misuses of knowledge have tantalized and troubled humanity ever since Adam and Eve sneaked a bite of the forbidden fruit and suffered the consequences. In her new novel, "Younger," a nightmare vision of science gone awry, Judith Sulzberger'49 puts a 21st century twist on the age-old futile search for the fountain of youth. A member of the Health Sciences Advisory Council, former contributor to this magazine, and writer-in-residence for the Human Genome Project at P&S, Dr. Sulzberger mixes her considerable knowledge in the field of genetics and her experience of the day-to-day workings of a research laboratory with savvy insight into the conundrums of the human heart.
In a tightly woven plot that makes for an enjoyable read, Dr. Sulzberger pits the rational constructs of science against the human all too human foibles of the mere mortals who apply it. The heroine, Dr. Constance Guyer, a virologist who has been investigating the vector of infection of a newly discovered virus in the mouse hypothalamus, crosses hearts and minds with a brilliant and handsome, albeit considerably younger, geneticist, Dr. Peter Tarker, who has identified the factor that causes aging. A collaborative experiment in which Connie and Peter succeed in reversing the aging process in laboratory mice (and during the course of which they become romantically entangled) takes an unexpected turn when, in a fit of depression, Connie ingests the viral trigger, turning her into a human guinea pig and turning back her body clock. A dream come true, you say? Indeed. But where does the clock stop?
I will leave the reader the pleasurable task of pursuing Dr. Sulzberger's speculative postulate to its own ineluctable end.
In an age of gene mapping, test tube babies, and the cloning of life, when almost every week the unthinkable is thought out and realized in laboratories around the world, "Younger" reminds us of our momentous responsibility: not to halt the acquisition of knowledge, but to monitor and control its potential misuse. As we have learned from recent events, a nuclear scientist may sell his secrets to a rogue nation or a microbiologist turn her genius to the business of germ warfare. Objective as it is, the scientific method does not safeguard against the fallibility of its practitioners.
All revenues from sales of the book will benefit P&S.