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Special Mentors in My Life: the Path to Geriatrics and Dementia Care - Page 2

reason I chose to read The Citadel by A.J. Cronin. I was an avid reader, but why this particular book caught my attention is no longer part of my recollective capacity. It may very well have been one of those events that “just happened”, the book was there and it looked interesting. The result was dramatic. I suddenly thought about studying medicine rather than engineering which had been my direction. Soon after I read the book I visited a dear friend, a girl about whom I had romantic fantasies, but who looked to me as a close friend which in the absence of the alternative coming to pass I cherished. I mentioned to her my musings about medicine and she said with great certainty and passion, “You would make a much better doctor that engineer—do it”. I left her house and within about 10 minutes I pondered her statement as I arrived home where I informed my parents about my decision (which during that 10 minute walk had been finally determined). I could see that my father was pleased, but he was not a very verbally expressive person. My mother said, “Oh it is such a long time of study”, but I got the sense that she was pleased as well. At this point there were no doctors in my extended family although other than my mother all of my immediate elders despite coming from immigrant uneducated parents had finished at least undergraduate university degrees. So this would be a new venture for my extended family that ultimately produced a number of physicians—including a very close first cousin and a number of second cousins.

The decision on my part to study in Scotland was the result of spending six months traveling around Europe during my junior year at Brooklyn College, an undertaking stimulated by one of my first professors in social sciences in my first year required course. Edgar Z. Friedenberg, who beyond mesmerizing me in his classes and stimulating me to want to travel, engaged me on my return from my sojourn through Europe that eventually completely changed the direction of my life and studies, as a research assistant for one of his seminal books, the Vanishing Adolescent published a year after I left for medical school. He had such a profound influence on my thinking and the range of my intellectual interests that I felt honoured that he kept in touch with me, even arranging a couple of trips with him to overseas destinations while I was studying medicine in Dundee Scotland. He left the United States and immigrated to Canada to teach at Dalhousie University. His move to Canada mirrored a similar move I made in 1968 also for the same reason—in opposition to the Vietnam War, not as a pacifist, but because I felt the war was a terrible mistake of United States policy.

In medical school in Dundee had a number of mentors that influenced my views of medicine and my approach to the concepts of the “story” of medicine and during my post-graduate years my views of the relationship between the humanities and medicine. The renowned Sir Ian Hill, our professor of medicine taught the art of the lecture that enchants, elevates and deeply engrosses an audience into the mysteries, meanderings and miracles of medicine. His description of the famous Zermatt typhoid fever outbreak of 1963, the year after I started medical school, will never be forgotten and still acts as a model for me for the wonders of the sleuthing required of public health challenges. It was Professor William Walker, our head of Midwifery (Obstetrics