Join me in the celebration of my 70th birthday

I’ve lived more than half my life here in La Plata County and have reached a milestone. This month I turned 70. My only sibling, Clara, died too young at age 71, although our parents both lived to over 85. This is a good time for me to take stock.

Writing this column for The Durango Herald has been a real pleasure. I have had reason to research all sorts of subjects and to pretend that I’m an expert in them all. Thanks to the Herald for giving me a way to exercise my mind – and hopefully stave off dementia!

It has been my great privilege to have been a part of so many people’s lives as a physician in our community. One of my greatest pleasures is to remeet folks I have helped into this world. An unrealized goal was to deliver three generations of babies. It has been wonderful, however, to help deliver the sons and daughters of people I first met as newborns.

One of my reasons for becoming a physician and then specializing in obstetrics and gynecology was concern about human population. The world’s population has tripled since my birth, and that of the United States has more than doubled. Because of economic development and our higher standard of living, human use of resources has been multiplied many times. My original reason for concern about overpopulation has to do with my wanting to work for peace. High population density, and thus competition for resources, is a common reason for war. I am still working to minimize this cause of armed conflict. However, now there are many other reasons for concern about population, including extinction of species and climate change. I have been accused of performing abortions only to slow population growth; this is not so! There are strong individual reasons, too – almost as many as there are women with unplanned pregnancies.

Abortion is seldom mentioned in the media except with an associated dark cloud. I am proud to be a physician who performs safe, legal abortions in a caring atmosphere. Whenever I think of retiring from being an abortion provider, I remember the quiet teen who sat up after her abortion and said: “Thank you, doctor. You gave me back my future.”

I have a conundrum. Sometimes people comment on my quirky sense of humor, but it has not been exercised much when writing these columns. Perhaps the subjects I write about are just too serious for me to find ways to joke about them. I need help: If you can think of jokes about the future of the planet – climate change, extinction of species and overpopulation – please write me.

I also have a bucket list – a list of things I would like to do while I still am able. One big item on the list is to continue exploring the world and our immediate surroundings. We still backpack, but the distances we hike before making camp are getting shorter. Fortunately, our dog, Tyrone, helps carry stuff.

Obstetrics has one unique disease that kills women and babies. Physicians have never figured out what causes pre-eclampsia (also called toxemia of pregnancy or pregnancy-induced hypertension); my bucket list includes researching its physiology. About 30 years ago, I came up with a hypothesis – that PIH is the woman’s body’s way of compensating for the baby’s obstructing blood flow to the lower half of her body. I never got around to testing this theory, but I hope to start that study soon.

One of my successes has been to learn enough Spanish to be able to function medically in that language. This has been a help to the many immigrants (and their wives) who do much of the low-paying labor in our area. Recently, I have volunteered at the La Plata Community Clinic, where Spanish is valuable. It seems strange, after limiting my practice to just women for so long, to also care for men, but it is rewarding. This clinic deserves our community’s support.

I am fortunate that my life is still exciting. Gail and I just celebrated our 47th wedding anniversary. We still enjoy each other’s company, and she has been a wonderful support. I feel very lucky that we found each other.

It has been a great pleasure to be a part of the Durango community, and that of the Herald. Thank you all – including those of you who disagree with me – for being part of my life. Please join me in celebrating my transition to geezerhood!

Richard Grossman practices gynecology in Durango. Reach him at richard@population-matters.org. © Richard Grossman MD, 2013

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