J.D. wrote his story and the intimation was that I should do the same so that all of you know who we are. So, I’ll do it this way……let’s call it….things you may not know about me……
I decided that I wanted to become a physician at 7 years of age. Suffice it to say that my Pediatrician saw something in my curiosity that prompted him to encourage and share the cool things in his office….skull, x-rays, blood slides under the microscope, stethoscope, his books!
My mother would tell you there wasn’t a safe frog in the neighborhood when I was a boy for if I could catch him he was gonna be dissected and studied with the observations backed up by a trip to the library. I used to sit for hours in the public library and draw from the anatomy books…beginning at about age 9 thru age 17. I received a copy of Gray’s Anatomy, the anatomy book used by first year medical students, as a gift when I was 10 years of age. And I still have it!!
I worked in the morgue conducting autopsies to pay my way thru college and medical school. I was fascinated by the pituitary gland and personally removed about 350 or more of them. We used to send them to Bethesda MD for research and perhaps GH extraction so that children with GH deficiency could be treated. That always intrigued me.
A case of hyperaldosteronism as a 3rd year student first piqued my interest in the field of endocrinology.
The first patient I diagnosed with a pituitary tumor was completely by accident when I was working as an intern in Internal Medicine. The patient had headaches. I had just seen one of the first MRI scans of the brain at my institution and thought…why not order one….and I hadn’t a clue what to do when the radiologist excitedly called me with the report of a 2cm pituitary adenoma. Other interesting pituitary patients seen during those first two years of Internal Medicine training included several women with metastatic breast cancer and DI as well as hypopituitarism; a patient with pituitary apoplexy and hypopituitarism that occurred during coronary bypass; and a young woman with amenorrhea and hyperprolactinemia as well as DI due to neurosarcoidosis; and a woman with hypopituitarism due to Sheehan syndrome. So….with all those interesting things going on I decided to NOT become an oncologist but instead to become an endocrinologist.
My endocrinology fellowship at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore was astounding! I enjoyed three absolutely wonderful years with excellent faculty and a lot of interesting patients. I focused my clinical and research efforts on pituitary diseases. I became a real doctor. I learned that I did not care for molecular biology research and I developed an intense dislike of research that involved sacrificing mice. My mentor, Gary Wand, was a real gem and I am indebted to him this day for getting me started along the way towards a career in neuroendocrinology. I enjoyed going to the OR to see patients undergo pituitary surgery. I became the local expert in hypothalamic and pituitary disorders and was directly consulted on many occasions though I was still in training. I learned to write papers.
I had the pleasure of working with George Tindall at Emory University in Atlanta Georgia for almost 5 years. Nelson Oyesiku, current pituitary surgeon at Emory and a friend, was getting his feet wet at the same time. I learned a lot!
I was recruited to establish and co-direct a Pituitary Center at Vanderbilt with George Allen, then Chair of Neurosurgery. The center was reasonably successful. I learned a lot about center development. I cherished my students, residents, and fellows and learned a lot about communicating the art and science of medicine during those years. I grew to see that my patients were my favorite students…and that my patients were my best teachers. This philosophy holds true today and is likely one of the guiding principles that led to this venture with J.D. Faccinetti that we call Pituitary World News.
In 2007, I took a position as Medical Director, of the California Center for Pituitary Disorders at University California, San Francisco and I continue in that position today as Professor of Neurological Surgery and Medicine. I truly enjoy my work. I love my colleagues, Drs. Sandeep Kunwar and Manish Aghi, who are the very best pituitary surgeons. My chairman, Mitch Berger, is superb and shares our visions of excellence in patient care, scholarship, and teaching. Our patients are awesome! I continue to learn from them every day.
Oh yes, this started out as things you may not know about me. Well. I am a landscape and portrait painter. I also do medical portraiture. I play the Irish bagpipes. I’ve been paid to perform music. I used to fly planes. I’ve flown a fighter jet…for a few minutes! I have a fabulous daughter who is going to become an artist. I used to be a sprinter…and have played serious organized fast-pitch baseball. I can hit an 87 mph fastball….and I’ve struck out twice swinging at wicked curveballs thrown by an ex-MLB pitcher. I wrote a book about travels in Ireland. And, lastly, I think about the pituitary and its diseases all the time. Even when I’m focused on something else the pituitary and my patients are in the background of my mental processes. Maybe “mental” is the operative word…ha!
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