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It is difficult to remember when I was not a doctor, and even more difficult to remember when I did not want to be a doctor - but there was such a time.  Originally, I wanted to be an astronomer; the clear winter skies over Southern New Jersey did not provide optimal viewing of dim astronomical objects due to the brilliant glare of the Western sky from Philadelphia and its suburbs.  Still, I was fascinated with astronomy and even built several reflecting telescope to get a better view.  My family could never afford to buy me a real, store telescope so I did the next best thing - I made several!  They may not have been the most beautiful things to look at but they worked reasonably well.  With them, I could view the craters of the moon, rings of Saturn, moons of Jupiter, star clusters, variable and double stars, and was sure astronomy would be my career path.

I picked only two colleges out where I would like to attend; the University of Virginia (U.Va) and Penn State University.  My mother taught at Temple University at the time, which is right in the middle of Philadelphia - difficult to see any stars from there!  Both the University of Virginia and Penn State had excellent astronomy departments, and I eventually chose U. Va as they had a beautiful campus next to the Blue Ridge Mountains.  I soon discovered, however, that astronomers tended to work very hard throughout the night and got very little money in return.  Astronomy is a research discipline; you either taught astronomy generally in a university environment, or you write endlessly for grants trying to beg for money from the government or granting agencies.  If you were good and could think of important, original research you might do well; otherwise, you would need a second job.

It was during this period of disillusionment that I thought seriously about medicine as an alternative career.   I suppose there is little shared in common between medicine and astronomy, but it seemed like a good idea at the time!  I decided upon a biology major and entered the pre-med program.  I remember vividly being scorned for making such a decision - I was selling out.  Perhaps I was - but looking back it was probably the right decision.  Also, it was very plainly made known to me that choosing a career in medicine was to choose a very difficult lifestyle - if indeed you could be accepted into any medical school.  At that time, there were about 100 applications for every medical school seat!  The competition was very fierce and very good applicants were rejected often for purely whimsical reasons.  I had in my mind a rather naive concept of what being a physician meant; sure, it was hard, but you were generally well respected and there was minimal stress because as a physician you knew all the answers.

Medicine is so very difficult to practice because it is an art - not a science.  There is much that is not known about all diseases, most treatment is poor at best, and mostly we depend upon the body to heal itself if we can just give it a little bit of help.  Still, bad things happen; people die because of mistakes, everybody eventually dies leaving devastated families, people who die somehow survive all odds, while others who should get better and walk out of the hospital, die.

I eventually became a physician specializing in Internal Medicine - the non-surgical diseases of the adult.  I found out very quickly that I was not meant to be a surgeon - I just don't have the temperament.  I also could not be a children's doctor because watching a sick child die was just too much to bear.  Taking care of children also usually means taking care of the emotional problems in the rest of the family.

After medical school, I went to Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia for three years; one for internship and two more for residency.  After finishing residency, I then decided to get more training as a specialist in Pulmonary (lung diseases) and Critical Care Medicine at the Medical College of Pennsylvania.  Eventually, I took many additional courses and became a specialist in Sleep Medicine.  One of the major diseases in sleep medicine is obstructive sleep apnea - a diseases where the patient frequently stops breathing at night.  I suppose that is why sleep medicine and lung medicine are frequently taught together.

I have now been practicing medicine as an attending (that is, on my own without supervision) for over 20 years and have probably seen it all!  I have been with many families as their loved ones died, I have delivered babies, taken patients off life support to die, and even ducked chairs thrown at me when I was unable to save a terminal elderly patient from her cancer.  Medicine is rewarding, but it extracts a considerable price for the privilege.  I work about 80 hours a week - at least, seeing patients in my office, hospital, sleep center, and traveling to other hospitals.  I also became a hospitalist - or hospital doctor - for a short period of time until my health was starting to suffer and I had to stop being a part-time hospitalist.

My life is very full; I work in the office, the local referral hospital, director of a sleep center, director of a durable medical equipment company, and a consultation office about 52 miles away in Jamestown, TN.  I also do medical-legal consultation work investigating the merits of malpractice cases, and author of a Christian newsletter.

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