Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Bypassing Thousands

Where can a medical pioneer, a caring physician, and an avid fly-fisherman all happily dwell? Right here in the heart of Maine.

Heart surgeon Robert Clough has a sizeable fan club in these parts. Here’s a recent encounter: Dr. Clough is in Calais, on his way to Canada to go fly-fishing. A local gentleman approaches him. “You’re Dr. Clough, aren’t you?” he says. “You gave me five bypasses!” The man lifts up his shirt to show his scarred chest as proof. Dr. Clough shakes his patient’s hand and asks him how he’s feeling. “Well, I just put up 16 cord of wood this weekend,” he replies. “What does that tell you?”

With 10,100-plus heart surgeries since Eastern Maine Medical Center’s cardiac surgery program debuted in 1987, Dr. Clough is hailed by appreciative patients often. And he loves every minute of it. “This kind of thing would never happen if I’d ended up in Boston,” he says. “It’s one reason why it’s so nice to be in Bangor, Maine.”

When Clough was recruited to help found the area’s first cardiac surgery program, about 200 area patients a year needed heart surgery. “The closest place to have it done was Portland, although patients were sometimes sent to Boston and Cleveland,” he says. Clough, who had been living in Texas, jumped at the chance to help design the new operating facility, write the protocols, and even train the operating room staff. “With all the support I had, there was no excuse for failure.” He performed EMMC’s first cardiac surgery, a triple bypass, on July 22, 1987, on a man named Lee Turner, from Shirley Mills. “Someone asked Lee if he was nervous about being the first patient,” Clough remembers, “and Lee said, ‘No—if they really thought I was going to die, they wouldn’t operate on me first.’” EMMC’s first cardiac surgery patient not only recovered nicely from his triple bypass, but he’s still doing well, 18 years later.

The long-term success of Eastern Maine’s cardiac program has been as healthy as Lee Turner’s surgery. Clough believes this is due, in part, to a groundbreaking organization called the Northern New England Cardiovascular Disease Study Group. Comprised of all eight heart centers throughout Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont, the members have been pooling data, designing improvements, and visiting each other's facilities since ‘87.

“When we started out, the places with poorer outcomes thought it was because their patients were sicker,” he says. But as the group continued to share best practices, they all became equally successful. “Today, there’s no difference statistically between any of the members,” Clough says. These same NNECDSG hospitals, he says, are also “the best places in the United States to have bypass surgery.” The experience taught him that “competition might be good for bringing down the price of shoes or cars or plasma TVs, but in medicine, cooperation is what is good for patients.”

So is gratitude. For the vast majority of cardiac patients who come through their surgeries successfully, life is no longer something they take for granted. Over the years, many have shared their gratitude with Clough. The office waiting room shows off a cross-country skiing trophy won by a patient after her EMMC bypass surgery. Other patients have given Clough paintings, handmade heirlooms, a Passamaquoddy good luck charm. But the best rewards are intrinsic. “If I had gone to Milwaukee, I would have been the 49th cardiac surgeon on staff,” he says. “Here, I feel I’ve made a difference. I feel very lucky.”

So do his patients.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Philip Laurent Poirier

To the Great Class of 1969:

It is with regret that I write you that Phil Poirier (alias "Demon") died September 14th in Santiago, Chile of a staph infection following leg surgery. Phil attended Trinity College following graduation where he played on the Varsity Football and Lacrosse teams. Prior to completing college, Phil joined the Navy and served for three years. Following his discharge, he finished college at the Socorro Technical School of Mining in New Mexico. After graduation he participated for more than ten years on a rugby team that travelled throughout the Southwest. In 1989, Phil moved to Santiago where he worked in the copper mining industry. Survivors include his wife of fourteen years and a son.

Phil entered Deerfield as a Junior where he was an excellent athlete who played on the Varsity Football and Lacrosse teams both years. There is an intense action shot of Phil against Mount Hermon on page 102 of the senior yearbook, for those of you who keep a copy handy.

There currently are still a number of classmates for whom we have no address, as was the case with Phil. (See my Volunteers' Weekend Letter for a list as of a year ago.) Anything you can do to help locate these missing members of the Class would be appreciated. At last count, the list of those classmates no longer among us also includes David Brown, George Burr, Tom Coughlin, Alan Jolis, Tim Marcum, Jeff O'Neil, David Reynolds and Pad Wales.

Be well and stay in touch at Albany Road.

Friday, September 16, 2005

1797 Dinner

To the Great Class of 1969:

Last night I attended the 32nd Annual 1797 Dinner in New York at The Pierre. The dinner coincided with the UN confab as well as with the most sweltering September weather anyone could remember in New York.

As you would expect, the celebratory event was staged with the customary aplomb, courtesy of Mimi Morsman. Jeff Louis, Chairman of the Board of Trustees (and the third lineal descendant to serve in that capacity), gave an upbeat assessment on the state of the School and, most importantly, on the search for a new Headmaster, the first since our 25th Reunion. It will come as no surprise that the School has had no trouble in attracting qualified candidates. Sometime this fall the School will disclose the names of the remaining candidates (expected to be between four and six) who will be invited to campus for day long exposure. The Board hopes to announce the new Headmaster (or Headmistress) by year end.

The occasion was a bittersweet one, insofar as it represented the last of the 1797 Dinners of the Widmer era in New York, a tradition begun 32 years ago by Mr. Crow. The Headmaster feigned having only just prepared his remarks after Bob Dewey's introduction, but it was evident from where I was seated that his handwritten notes had been prepared well in advance. The Headmaster laced his remarks with anecdotes, recalling the importance of New York in the history of the School, including the presentation to Mr. Boyden at The Waldorf at a dinner on the occasion of his 50th year as Headmaster of not only a buggy, but also a horse. The Headmaster also analogized the intellectual and moral support which Deerfield is providing to King's Academy in Jordan to the financial help which Deerfield received from Exeter, Andover and Taft during the dark days of the 1920's when the Commonwealth of Massachusetts terminated state support for private schools. Meera Viswanathan (or "Miz Viz" as she is known by students) delivered a heartfelt, extemporaneous speech about the last eleven years and what a sense of heritage meant to her, which encompassed not only the past, but also shared hopes for the future. The evening concluded with a DVD devoted to the Headmaster featuring tributes from students, teachers, alumni and trustees.

I expect to report back in early October, following Volunteers Weekend. Weather permitting, I hope to post some photos of the Koch SM&T Building as well as the Deerfield - Hotchkiss football game. In the interim, please follow the lead of Tim Truby and Steve Bisbee and send portrait photos for posting by clicking on the Class Postings link.

Be well and stay in touch.

P.S. Trivia Question: Who can tell me how many Headmasters the Academy has had since its founding? Send your guess to me via the Class Postings link.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

"Beam me up, Scotty!"

To the Great Class of 1969:

As I mulled over last month how much Google has changed my daily life – not because I had been so prescient as to have invested in the IPO – I realized that Google could make a difference in how we related to each other. The more I reflected on this and that 100,000 new blogs reportedly are being created each day, it seemed totally fitting that our class – which graduated one month prior to the historic lunar landing – also should be first class to set foot in the blogosphere. It is with that sense of adventure that I decided to launch Albany Road Redux into cyberspace as a tribute to the Great Class of 1969. I hope you like it and will help to make it a success by contributing future content.

Albany Road Redux is, first and foremost, a meeting place for members of the class who would like to remain in touch electronically, as the statement at the top of the website indicates. I am, unlike many bloggers, the traffic coordinator through whom postings travel. In that sense, I am the Editor-in-Chief of the blog, just like Marty Kaiser has the ultimate say at The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. You will notice on the right of the website a handful of links which I hope you will find useful. For example, you can send me news and photos by clicking on the Class Postings link or catch up on news about the Academy by clicking on either Deerfield News or Google Deerfield. I also have included a link to the Alumni Website as well as a direct link to the online giving form at Annual Support for those of you who would like to make a financial commitment to Deerfield. Finally – and this is what I am most excited about – I have included a link to what I am calling the Online Yearbook which is the beginning of a compendium of individual portrait photos of class members. I hope that you will forward to me a suitable photo (or a replacement photo) for inclusion in the “Yearbook”.

Class Trivia

While the photo of Ed Grosvenor in my June Letter drew some quick responses, no one could answer who the first classmate was to run a public company. That distinction goes to Charlie Bishop who was not only the President of Bone Care International when it became a public company in 1996, but also its first employee when it was formed in 1987. Some other classmates who currently head up enterprises include Andy Cohn (Duncan Bolt Company), David Colker (National Stock Exchange), Tee Johnson (T.H.E. Audio), Jim Lunt (Lunt Silversmiths), (Hank Minor (P.W. Minor & Son), Kevin Murphy (Ocean Cuisine International) and Hank Wetzel (Alexander Valley Vineyards).

In keeping with the captains of industry theme this month, can anyone identify the smiling classmate pictured in the Online Yearbook at Starbucks’ annual shareholders meeting?


Since my last class-wide e-mail, the Academy sent out my August Letter with a short questionnaire and a stamped, self-addressed return envelope. Please take a minute, if you haven’t done so already, to send it back so that I can learn more about how each of you wants to relate to the Academy in the current school year.

New faculty orientation began on Wednesday, August 24th, and the campus is beginning to buzz again after a long, hot summer. Returning students are due to arrive on Friday, September 9th, and will be joined the following day by new students.

In closing, I regret to tell you that two classmates have been displaced by Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath: Barry Ahearn is an English professor at Tulane University in New Orleans, and Paul Galuszka is an attorney in private practice in neighboring Metairie. Best wishes to all, but most especially to Barry and Paul at this time of unfathomable adversity.