Last updated June 2013.
By Martin Glasser
I am a lifer. This gives me the opportunity to look back on my life and to reflect. During my 7th decade of life, this feels like what I need to do to bring understanding to what I have accomplished and what I wish I could have done in a different way.
My family moved from New York City to Oklahoma City when I was in grade school. The move to the "bible belt" was challenging. My experience as a minority, being Jewish, was similar to being a person of color.
My high school education included a focus on music and the Jr. Red Cross. Academics were often not my top priority. My music interest included playing in dance bands and joining the musician's union. Many of my weekends were spent playing in bands. My high point was to be the first chair in saxophone for the State Band for two years. Jr. Red Cross became my opportunity to fine tune my leadership skills. I was appointed as a member of the National Jr. Red Cross Advisory Committee. The committee had the responsibility of dispersing all of the funds collected in the US. We elected to offer money to Albert Schweitzer. He responded by telling us the following: "Don't send money! It will be misused or abused. Don't send food, it will rot in the sun. Send us tin so we can build the huts to store our food and to allow us to use it when we need it." We sent tin.
My "claim to fame" in College was my ability to produce beer for my fraternity and friends. I also completed my recital for classical saxophone. In addition, I completed my pre-med in three years and went on to complete Medical School in 4 years.
As an Intern, at San Francisco General Hospital, I was able to volunteer at the Haight Ashbury Free Clinic in "talking down" people on acid trips.
Each of us completing our Internship anticipated being sent to Vietnam. I was no exception. I volunteered to join the Navy aboard a large ship in the Mediterranean fleet. (That is what the recruiter told me to request). My orders came; Fleet Marines, 3rd Marine Division, Republic of Vietnam.
My first 6 months was as a Battalion Surgeon at the forward most MASH unit in Vietnam. We were near Khe Sanh. My role was as a combat surgeon. We experienced in-coming 24/7. My second 6 months was with the 3rd Marine Division RECON units. I was the commanding officer for the corpsmen who went out on the recon missions. I also served as the physician for the Vietnamese at their local hospital for pediatrics. I traveled to the hospital daily and set up numerous clinics in villages. (Most were enemy villages, Viet Cong). My interpreter was always by my side in each of the settings. Highlights of my tour volunteering for the Vietnamese included sending a child to the US for heart surgery and being one of two American doctors who treated the Vietnamese for a bubonic plague epidemic. I received several awards from the Vietnamese government for civic action and medals from the Marines. The most significant award was from my interpreter. He told me on my last day that I had a price on my head from the Viet Cong. They felt that I was winning the respect of the people and needed to be eliminated. He then told me he was Viet Cong and had protected me because I was an honest man and cared for his people. Other military physicians had used the treatment of children as a propaganda technique. He felt that I was sincere. He protected me and kept me alive. I am still contemplating my book about Vietnam: "The enemy protected me."
I formally launched my career in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry upon my return from Vietnam. Our training director was Denny Cantwell. Each of us participated in analysis during our training at UCLA. My training at UCLA prepared me for a year with the State Department, followed by a return to San Francisco General and then to the Child Study Unit at UCSF. I became the medical director for the Infant parent program while at SFGH. This program was led by Selma Fraiberg. As the Director of the Child Study Unit set up a joint fellowship between UCSF and Berkeley Public Health for my graduates to have certification in Developmental Pediatrics and a Master's in Public Health from Berkeley. My position, Director of the Child Study Unit, lasted for about 8 years. It was a wonderful time of my life in that it allowed me to teach and to provide excellent services to the children and families who came to our program. We had the disciplines of medical students, nursing students, social workers, psychologists, pediatricians rotate through our program with the Child and Adolescent Fellows joining us for our joint consultation rounds.
I left academics and became the medical director for the children's inpatient unit at a new hospital in San Diego. I continued my private practice in San Diego. I made my first entrée into managed care after one year with the hospital. This part of my career progressed to having executive functions with Aetna, TRICARE, Magellan, Anthem Blue Cross (Wellpoint) and Blue Shield of California. My practice in child and adolescent psychiatry continues, part time, with a focus on the treatment of autism in children and adults.
A side activity continues to be part of two Review Oversight Committees for NCQA. These roles allow me to continue to have my finger on the pulse of the delivery of health care and ways to improve the quality of health care delivery throughout the industry.
I continue to supervise the treatment for combat PTSD patients and also serve as a member of the Pharmacy and Therapeutics committee for Blue Shield of California.
I have not allowed my health to interfere with my professional goals. I did not get wounded in combat but discovered a few years after my return from Vietnam that I was developing autoimmune disorders. The Air Force published articles about men in the "red zone" for Agent Orange having these conditions. I developed several autoimmune conditions after Vietnam. The most significant was myasthenia gravis. After several years of treatment with conventional therapy my disease continued and was called refractive to therapy. Seven years ago I was accepted to have the first stem-cell transplant for this condition. It was challenging but worked. The myasthenia started to respond to treatment. I am now in the process of attempting to find treatments for my new conditions. They are currently autoimmune conditions that include Myasthenia Gravis and conditions impacting my bone marrow. I am told that I will continue to need treatment for these conditions the rest of my life.
Reflection is best when I hold my twin granddaughters and play with my two older granddaughters. Our four children continue to mature and seek their place in society. They have had many successes and some challenges. My wife continues to be my best friend and support. My body needs attention but, to date, my brain continues to function.