Monday, April 6, 2009

Why "Unfrozen Caveman?"

I've long been a fan of the late comedian Phil Hartman, and in particular his character Cirroc, the Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer, which was written by Jack Handey. So I've adopted this nickname partly as a tribute to the comic genius of these very funny men, but it is more that that.

Before becoming a physician specializing in oncology, I was a teenage "computer wiz", who got an education in applied physics, played at being an FM rock DJ and broadcast engineer in college, and a had 20 year career in computer-aided design software. Along the way I also practiced and taught martial arts, which gave me a kind of informal education in first aid, anatomy and exercise physiology (partly from my own minor injuries).

Most of my medical school classmates were 20 years younger than I was, and while we got along great there was this generation gap. The news of John Lennon's murder, which I saw during a late-night bull session in the basement TV lounge of a Cornell dorm, was still a vivid and painful memory for me that coincided for many of them with the year they were born. When I jokingly described my heavy five-o-clock shadow at the end of a very long day as "Nixonian," I got these blank looks. When I first took chemistry, a slide rule was required. For them, the 1960's and 70's were abstractions, whereas I had lived them. I also had the life experience of having three children, and a wife with type-1 diabetes, so when it came to obstetrics, pediatrics and endocrinology, I had a huge head start, mostly in simple comfort level, but in both formal and informal knowledge as well.

I think that part of the reason I came to medicine so late is that I became involved with computer programming so early, and so intensely. The other facets of my nature became "frozen" while that early adventure ran its course. Eventually I thawed myself out to become a little more well-rounded, and to discover my true calling.

So I called myself Unfrozen Caveman Medical Student, like Cirroc, a sort of noble savage from another time with an uncanny folk wisdom that I could bring to bear to solve the problem. Eventually, I became Unfrozen Caveman Intern, then Unfrozen Caveman Resident, etc.

Now, as Unfrozen Caveman MD, I find I still bring an "out of the box" perspective to problem-solving, which I hope will continue to be valuable resource on behalf of patients both in the lab and in the clinic.

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