Dan Erwin: Career change

Luck, Genetics and Self-Awareness

In a recent interaction with my lead physician, a superb internist at the University of Minnesota Medical school, I found myself questioning his conclusion about the role of luck in my life and health. Going over the conversation in my mind, I realized that I needed to clarify some issues with him. We had been talking about my lab results, which were absolutely flawless. I commented that my 87-year-old health was a result of good genetics, taking care of myself and the high-quality medical care that I had received at the med school. That was where he added that I needed to factor luck into my overall health success. To be specific, he noted that I would be in a far different situation, perhaps long gone from this world, if I hadn't walked into emergency 25 years ago and had a pacemaker installed immediately. I had a heart blockage, so, he said, I was really very lucky. A few more days without the pacemaker and that would have been it.

I decided just a few hours later that I wasn't in full agreement with his conclusion--at least as we left it. 
Putting flesh on my decisioning
Let me explain: My decision to head to Emergency--a trip resulting in the pacemaker--was the result of several issues. First, by the time I was in my early fifties, I decided that I'd need to take charge of my healthcare, a decision based on extensive reading on health and aging as well as personal experience with a couple mediocre physicians. I was also strongly oriented to research-based medicine insights long before that trip to Emergency. My unusual background  in communications, counseling and educational psychology, along with my experience teaching stress management, all added up to a great deal of mental and physical self-awareness. In spite of serious allergy problems, my wife maintained superb health by regular interaction with a couple physicians. As a result, I was quite used to being around physicians and not always enamored of their insights. In addition, one-of my sons-in-law is an MD/PhD, formerly a Harvard Med School physician, and his wife, my daughter, has been a VP in medical research for years. Furthermore, another daughter has been in medical research management for years, now a research manager at Harvard Med School. On top of this rich background, I long since rejected the typical male attitude toward health care--taking an aspirin and ignoring potential issues. I've maintained regular relations with several physician specialists at the UMN Med school for years. In addition, the fact that my brother never took care of himself, dying early with diabetes, obesity, lung problems, etc., etc. served as a warning for me for at least the past 35 years. So I've had tons of background emphasis in the role of personal health management--all adding up a rich, long life.

But the pacemaker incident was not the first time I took

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