CHAPTER 07 Albany Medical School, NY 1955 – 60
While taking a medical aptitude test in the Army I had experienced a notion that I could fit in to the field of medicine. But that idea was deferred. In 1955 my cousin, Ralph Thiers then connected with Harvard, prompted me to re-consider it. Mainly to clear the notion from my brain, I applied to three medical schools. To my surprise I was accepted at Albany Medical College. That early notion had become a reality. So, I started med school at age 30, with four kids and a saint for a wife. We moved to Albany, NY in the fall of 1955 and I entered the grind. I enjoyed the physics of Surgery, the detective work of Internal Medicine and the psychology of Pediatrics. But I felt increasingly that my background suited me uniquely for a role in Preventive fields back in Africa. In my Senior year Michael Wood MD recruited me to an organization he was starting in Africa called AMREF (African Medical & Research Foundation).
During this time in medical school we developed a good and long-lasting fellowship with many friends connected with Loudonville Community Church (LCC) in a nearby suburb of Albany. The two most important events of this era were my earning the MD in May 1959 and the birth of our fifth child, Betsy in December 1959 (during my Internship at Albany Hospital).
Summer vacations tended to be spent with Betty’s parents in Mississippi.
- Albany Medical College
- LCC friends and other acquaintances.
- Summer vacations
- ALBANY MEDICAL COLLEGE
Med. School was expectably tough. My own stamina was very dependent upon Betty’s heroic role in keeping the family happily together while I studied. Our home at 34 Van Schoick was in a neighborhood of multiple faiths, Protestant, Catholic and Jewish. So, our kids got a good sense of the American “melting pot”. One neighbor kid asked Danny if he was Catholic, Protestant or Jewish. His reply was “I don’t know, I think we are just Christians”. TV was just coming into vogue and we soon realized that we needed one if we were to have our kids at home late afternoons. Our kids were here first introduced to snow. In our back yard we made an igloo of snow. The two boys opted to spend the night in it. Early the next morning the milkman was surprised by their appearance there. Dan and then David attended Public School 19. They enjoyed it and did well, qualifying for inclusion in an “enriched” program then being innovated.
At the time of our return from Africa two cultural affairs made headlines in New York. The epic World Series play-off battle between the Yankees and the Dodgers and the Broadway play “West Side Story”.
I Graduated from Albany Medical College with an MD, May 59. After getting my MD I stayed on in Albany for internship at Albany Hospital.While I enjoyed every branch of medicine I began to realize that my background was an important factor in my choices for the future. So it was natural to think seriously about preventive and promotive activity in the Third World. A call “back to Africa” was easy to respond to. See Chapter 9 and 10.
In 1959 family friend Stan Barnett moved in with us at 34 VanSchoick. Our house had an unfinished attic space big enough to stand in. I insulated it and put in some walls, so the boys could sleep there, giving their room to Stanley. Stanley became an MD, then a member of Special Forces in Viet Nam and finally medical director of Kijabe Medical Center. Later, for family reasons Stan moved back to US. He died in 2017 from a bizarre form of Parkinsonism which he had fought valiantly for many years. Stan’s grandfather Albert Barnett was one of the pioneers of AIM, starting in Kenya soon after the turn of the century. The town of “Kabarnet” in Kenya is named for a spot in the bush where Barnett camped during his walking evangelistic safaris.
- LCC friends and other acquaintances of the time.
A day or two after our arrival in Albany from Africa (‘55) we came back from shopping to find a tall young man awaiting us on our front steps. This was Dennis Kinlaw, pastor of Loudonville Community Church, LCC. I do not know by what grapevine he had heard of us. But his recruitment of us ushered in an enduring warm fellowship. Dennis later became president of Asbury Seminary. The LCC congregation met in a mansion donated by Mrs Houston, an MD who had been a missionary in China. Loudonville was a well-off suburb of Albany. The congregation included an interesting variety of people. One-year Betty and I taught a Sunday school class called “Homebuilders”.
Another LCC family friendship was with Dicran and Armine Berberian. They had deep Armenian roots but did not refer to them publicly. At that time few Americans were aware of the genocide in Turkey. The Berberian daughter Cynthia, though a very gifted pianist went on to become a pediatrician. She married Tom Hale a fellow MD from Albany Med. Together they spent fifteen years running a hospital in very rural Nepal. Tom wrote several enchanting books about their experiences there. The first book was titled “Don’t Let the Goats Eat the Loquat Trees”.
Paul and Doris Morgan were also close friends at LCC. They were exhuberent in spirit and helped us to understand the US of the late-50s.
Our closest friends were Jim and Jean Burns. Jim had served in the Navy and was well tuned to discipline as he mentored the “Boy’s Brigade” at LCC over many decades. Jean, a teacher combined love of people with love of literature. Jim was then working with Niagara Mohawk Power company. During his service calls in Albany he would find a slot of time and bring to our kids a treat in the form of Perky Pacs of ice cream. Yes, Jim became their hero!
Many of our LCC outings took place at “Camp Pinnacle”, a Christian summer camp/conference ground atop the Helderberg Mountains west of Albany. The kids’ camps were lively and the conference program inspiring. One regular musical feature was the “Musical Czehy Family”.
Tom Mboya was a dynamic young Kenya politician. He was of the Luo tribe as is Pres. Obama. I had written a letter to Tom in Kenya questioning the Public behavior of his “Youth Wing”. He replied with a thoughtful, polite defense of their actions. He also invited me to a reception in New York City. I attended (April 11) and found a very sophisticated bunch of people in a very wealthy apartment. I cannot remember who were the hosts or where the location. But I remain struck that Tom would bother to be so civil to a critical mzungu (white, and American at that) who meant absolutely nothing to him.
A roommate at RVA in the ‘30s was Graham Reynolds. Sadly, he died at that time of an acute infectious disease. Graham’s missionary father, Reg developed an aptitude for movie film making At some time during med school I sponsored a visit to AMC by Reg. He gave a talk with movie about the development of medical work in Kenya’s NFD. Reg’s second son Dave (younger brother of Graham) introduced the game of rugby to RVA. Our son Dan played scrum half under Dave Reynolds when he was RVA’s coach. In later years “RIFT” went on to dominate the game in the Kenya high schools circuit.
July 8th heard Dr. Kiano speak in Schenectady Kiano was the first Kenyan to earn a PhD in US (at Palo Alto, CA). I noticed in the paper that he was speaking in Schenectady. I attended his lecture. At one point he was talking about food and for a moment could not recall the Swahili word “posho”. I called it out and that came as a bit of surprise to him and the audience, coming from a mzungu (white person).
- SUMMER VACATIONS
One summer I served as handy-man at Camp Pinnacle just outside of Albany. This gave the kids an exposure to that American specialty, summer camp life.
Other summers we traveled south and west to spend time with Betty’s family in DC and later Gulfport, Miss. We also re-visited my family connections in West Virginia, Houston and Nebraska.
1960 Summers at Gulfport
Betty’s parents had semi-retired to Long Beach near Gulfport, Mississippi. Their home was right on the waterfront on the Gulf of Mexico. So, the sandy beach was a great playground. There we enjoyed the atmosphere, cuisine and history of the south during vacations. Sometimes there were more than one set of grandkids present. In the summer of 1963 Daddy Lane organized a Lane Family Reunion at the Grand Hotel near Mobile Alabama. This was a big undertaking, with families coming from far reaches. Our Gini was the youngest of 30 grandchildren present. Fifty years later that Lane Family Reunion reunion was repeated at the same place.