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Fatherhood Changes Everything

By March 17, 1976October 7th, 20211970s, Doctor, Doctor!, Grand Tour


In March 1976, I told my supervisor at ESL I needed a week of parental leave, immediately. When asked why I hadn’t given more notice, I admitted I’d just found out myself. With raised brow he quipped, “hmm, not very observant, are you?”

My boss had simply made a wrong assumption. Susie was already experiencing ophthalmic complications from her Type 1 diabetes and had been advised not to get pregnant, so we’d applied to adopt. Then nothing for many months, and suddenly — instant fatherhood!

The shock of sudden fatherhood rocked my world, leading me to reflect on my own life choices, and what they meant for my family. In a few years, Amy would be asking me what I did at work. And while the engineering challenges in the defense industry were interesting, they didn’t feel sufficiently valuable to humanity.

Beat the rush! Have your mid-life crisis early!

I thought it was time for a change and contemplated applying my electronic engineering skills in the biomedical industry. While sending out some initial feelers, I met an IBM engineer named Jack Gelb at a cocktail party, who upon hearing my story said he knew of an engineer, Bill Podolsky, who’d made a complete switch from engineering to medicine, via a unique medical school program at the University of Miami. I contacted Dr. Podolsky and he invited me to visit him at Stanford Hospital where he was serving his residency.

That’s how I learned of the University of Miami PhD-to-MD program, a federally-subsidized experiment to head off an expected physician shortage. Open to engineers and scientists with a PhD, it compressed the normal 4-year med school curriculum into just 2 (very intense) years; the usual pre-med course prerequisites were all dropped.

I am eternally grateful that Susie, may she rest in peace, embraced this idea. We’d soon be selling our new home, one of our cars, and all our furniture, leaving friends and family behind to spend two years in Miami, Florida. We knew I’d be working hard but we could not know all that lay ahead.