It’s only taken me 97 posts to write about this topic.
I’ve been with Stanford School of Medicine since January 2007. My job is to get neurosurgeons/doctors/professors appointed and privileged to work at Stanford University Medical Center in Palo Alto, California. Or Stanford, California to be exact. It’s like a small city here. Stanford has 16,000 employees and it’s great to be a part of this. There is a dynamic edge in this environment. This place is a thought leader in many areas.
I’d always loved Stanford since I moved to California 15 years ago from Chicago. At first I started taking creative writing classes here back in the Spring of 2002. I remember my first day walking to my first Stanford Continuing Studies-Advanced Fiction Writing.
For some reason I took an Advanced Fiction Writing class because I thought I was pretty good. After all, I was working on a novel and I’d taken some writing classes in Chicago. I remember walking to my first class. It was a night class and the bells were ringing on Hoover Tower and I was strolling through the main quad. The moon was rising in the sky. It was a moment that stays with you. I loved being back in college after graduating more than a dozen years before from Loyola University Chicago.
That first class I realized I was in over my head. But I stayed with it. A few weeks later they workshopped a chapter from my novel. I think I called it Operation Czech Mate. In retrospect it sounded like a thriller espionage mystery novel. But that’s not my story. After my fellow writers/classmates discussed my work, I remember coming home that night and not being able to sleep. My wife wanted to sleep but I was on fire. Exhilarated. I was a writer (okay, with a long way to go, the story needed a lot of work) but they were talking animatedly about something I created!
I realized the novel title had to be changed so I made it Working the Glass. And by the end of class (class ten) I even taught/led the discussion on Eudora Welty’s short story Why I live at the P.O. The spark was there.
I like being on the intersection of all these outstanding people and ideas. And I’m even luckier to be associated with this group. Neuroscience is a leading edge area and the advances are amazing. It wasn’t easy to get here. My wife went to Stanford and got a job here. Then my lucky break came when I got a call that I was hired at Stanford on the day before Thanksgiving Day in 2006.
I like helping neurosurgeons and there was one that I had the most fun getting a new appointment here at Stanford. His name was Dr. A. John Popp. What an amazing person because he won the Cushing Prize, the highest award in all of organized Neurosurgery. But it was more than that, this busy doctor read the first 12 chapters of my manuscript and he encouraged me along the way. It was kind of like being one of the knights in the court of King Arthur. My sword was my pen. Dr. Popp was amazing and he actually read chapters of the novel while in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. He’s still around but just on the east coast now, inspiring me to this day.
Finally, my favorite part of the job is working with foreign neurosurgeons being appointed. I was bringing in one Neurosurgeon to work in my group from Islamic Republic of Iran (Iran.) No one around here had ever brought someone in from that country.
I was given the nearly impossible task. The United States does not have diplomatic relations with Iran so this doctor had to trek over the mountains to Turkey to get his visa. It was always in question and took months longer than anyone I’d ever completed. At one point began to doubt if it would ever happen. Then one day his visa was approved and he was able to get on a plane from Iran for the United States (to work at Stanford.)
I felt like I was bringing in the first basketball player from the Soviet Union during the Cold War to the United States to play in the National Basketball Association. He was the Šarūnas Marčiulionis of the Department of Neurosurgery.
But it all began at Stanford for me. It’s made me who I am and it’s been a perfect platform for a battler from the Southside of Chicago.