Donald Raddatz, November 4, 2012


Donald Raddatz, November 4, 2012


Rural Medicine, Chicago, Medical Student, Bassett Hospital


Donald A. Raddatz has been a rheumatologist in Cooperstown, NY for 31 years. He was born in the South Side of Chicago, Illinois and spent many years practicing medicine in both rural and urban places ranging from Minneapolis, Minnesota to Yonkers, New York, to Cooperstown, New York. He sheds a great deal of light on the differences between practicing in an area like Yonkers, New York and an area like Cooperstown, New York.

Don Raddatz is a very involved community member and participates in several events year-round in Cooperstown. He is a spinning instructor at the Clark Sports Center and has immersed himself in athletic activities most of his life. He has been distinctively influenced by his youth in Chicago and the Jesuits and Catholic schools he attended as a boy. Don has been very connected with his educational institutions throughout most of his life. He continues to support his alma mater, Holy Cross, as well as Dartmouth where he received his 2 year degree in Medical Science before transferring to Minnesota to finish residency and his fellowship.

While an undergraduate, Don met his wife, Cathy. They have been married since 1973 and had three children together: Melissa, Gretchen, and George. Melissa and Gretchen were both born in Minnesota while Don was finishing his residency and fellowship. Don has a great appreciation for his wife who cared for their children and held many jobs while he attended medical school. George was born after the family moved to Cooperstown.

Don Raddatz has a background in the study of Classics and uses many Greek and Latin references. I have tried to reproduce these references by listening and re-listening to Don’s interview. I also chose to preserve some of the dialectic phrases, actions, and colloquialisms in an attempt capture the authenticity of the interview, but it is hard to capture some of the meaning without listening to the actual interview. This interview is incredibly helpful to researcher’s looking for fine details on the differences in practicing medicine in rural and urban places. It is also explicitly focused on the changes over time in medicine in regards to technology, communication, and the de-personalization of medicine, as well as the changes that Bassett Hospital has physically undergone during his career here. Likewise, Don’s interview highlights the affect of living in a small community on his children’s understanding of diversity, which is an interesting topic for many contemporary researchers.


Samantha Clink


Cooperstown Graduate Program, State University of New York - College at Oneonta


2012 - 11 - 4


New York State Historical Association Library, Cooperstown, NY"


86.14 mB

39.5 kb








Upstate New York
Cooperstown, New York
Chicago, Illinois
Minneapolis, Minnesota
St. Paul, Minnesota

Online Submission



Samantha Clink


Donald A. Raddatz


Cooperstown, NY


Cooperstown Graduate Program
Oral History Project Fall 2012

SC = Samantha Clink
DR = Donald Raddatz

[START OF TRACK 1, 0:00]

SC: Alright, this is Samantha Clink interviewing Donald Raddatz for the Research and Fieldwork class for the Cooperstown Graduate Program on November 14, 2012. This is Don Raddatz. If you could state your name for the record?

DR: My name is Donald Alan Raddatz.

SC: Alright, are you ready to begin?

DR: Absolutely.

SC: OK. Alright, so, if you were to write a book about your life, where would you start?

DR: I would start with elementary school.


DR: I was raised on the South Side of Chicago, in a highly Catholic area. I went to a Catholic elementary school with some 1200 kids. I made a lot of friendships there. I thought that the nuns were very influential in my life, actually. You don't see many nuns anymore, and that was very formative. Built a lot of nice relationships and it was a nice small suburb of Chicago to grow up in. So I would start there, and I would then move on to high school. I took a somewhat unusual route for high school in that most people from that area went either to the local Catholic high school or the local public high school, but I went to a Jesuit high school near downtown Chicago, maybe two miles away and the advantage of that was that I met classmates from all over the city of Chicago - the north side, the west side, the southeast side, and of course the south side. The Jesuits have a way of, I think, training people to think - some liberalism, educated in the classics. I was a classics scholar, I guess, at Saint Ignatius. Most of all it taught me a knowledge of the city of Chicago and how to get around the city, how to be sort of street savvy, and I learned many things I would have never probably seen or learned by going to school more locally in my area. Not that that's a bad thing, but this was a good thing for me. I knew early on that I wanted to be a physician so the training there helped me to get into college, into a Jesuit college, and from there into medical school etc.

SC: OK. Were you born in Chicago as well?

DR: I was born in Chicago, in the South Side, and an only child.

SC: OK. You said you decided early on you wanted to do medicine. What influenced that decision?

DR: I enjoyed my family doctor to a degree, although I was petrified of him.


DR: Because I didn't like needles, and I didn't like a lot of things back then that family practitioners did, but I realized that I really admired what he did. When I was in high school actually, I decided right then and there that I would like to be a physician, for a number of reasons. Mainly to help people, and I thought it was a very worth-while career. I had a summer job or an after school job, bagging gauze and things of that sort in the very hospital I was born in. That was just some immersion a little bit into the hospital experience. It wasn't really an all powerful motivator, but I just made up my mind early on that that's what I wanted to do. Some people, as you know, never make up their mind until they're 30 or 40 or 50. So, that's where it started, and I don't have every explanation for that, but I know when I got to college my nickname was pre-med, "premie,” premedical they called me. Because at college, in my freshmen year, I was always in the stacks at the library. So if they wanted to come find me for a party or anything, or had a question, they would have to go down in the stacks and locate me. Now stacks aren't really all that much a part of learning anymore, but back then, they were like being in a jail cell.

SC: Hmm.

DR: Because they were a carrel. They had three sides and you stuck your head in there, into the three sides, and you had a shelf for your books up on top. There were just rows of these along the backs of the library on either side and you just worked at it, and that's how I got my nickname - "Premie," premedical. But I did, I decided that I needed to expand my horizons because it was so tough in the first semester of college that I decided I would play lacrosse. Having never played lacrosse it was very interesting because I had played some club hockey in Chicago as a goalie, in hockey. The coach looked at me and said, "You ever played lacrosse?" I said "No, sir." He said "Well, played any sport that uses a stick?" I said, "I was a goalie in hockey." He said "Well, good you'll be the goalie here. You'll be the backup goalie." I go, "that doesn't sound so good." So that would be whenever we would be getting beaten badly. Never way ahead, or in practice I would always be the second-string goalie with the second-string defense with the first-string offense going against us. I saved more shots I'm sure with my shins and my thighs than I ever did with the stick. I never, ever got the hang of clearing the ball. I would throw it, and it would come right down in front of me because I held onto it to long. Then I got to play some mid-field, and that was a little better, but then I realized during my sophomore year, that I couldn't really do this. But the advantage of playing a sport in college is that you meet a lot of people when you go to games and you meet a lot of people on the team and on the bus, and so that expands your knowledge. It was too much to be in premedical and continue to play lacrosse especially if you've never played before you could imagine how much you got to play when there are guys that played a lot in front of you.


DR: But, I wouldn't trade it. I still support the lacrosse team at Holy Cross.

SC: Mhm, and do you still have friends? You said that the best way to meet people when you're a pre-med student is to do things like that.

DR: Holy Cross is a school, well it was all male then, and probably they had 80 pre-meds a year, probably. I would say 70 out of the 80 got into med school. So they had a very high percentage of people that would get into med school. There is a fellow, Anthony Fauci, who is the head of AIDS at the NIH who is a famous graduate of Holy Cross, world renowned. But, it was a very good school if you wanted to get into medical school. I have a lot of friendships from there, but I think I have essentially no elementary school friendships. You might say, well why is that? And I would say well, once you leave your suburb and go to a high school downtown, and then you go from there to a college in Massachusetts, and then to a medical school in New Hampshire you just don't come back.

SC: Mhm.

DR: So you bind yourself to people in high school much more I think, and college, and in medical school. So, I have some friendships from all of those places. You know? I mean, you don't have a hundred good friends. If anyone does, I don't know what they're doing. But you know, you have six or seven good friends anyway, and that's really all you need. That's what you need, that's what you count on. So, that's how I, that's sort of the story of that part of education. Holy Cross, like my high school, is a Jesuit institution in Massachusetts. Again, very good about making you think about things and being open-minded even though it was an all-male Catholic college. But, they're very liberal compared to traditional colleges in terms of thinking. Jesuits like to think a lot and there are many, many famous Jesuits that have written philosophy, etc. So that helped me to get into medical school at Dartmouth. I was a classics major. I was classics premed. First I was bio premed, and I realized that if I stayed as a bio premed I probably would just go off the deep end.

SC: Why is that?

DR: So I said well, you were a classics jock in high school so this is going to be second nature to you. I was Latin and Greek, and got the premedical courses. Actually, almost didn't get into medical school because I did poorly on my MCATS, which are the admission tests. Not poorly, average, and even though I had very good grades, with poor scores I just waited and waited. I was on some waiting lists and all of a sudden May of my senior year I got this letter from Dartmouth of all places and they said we'd love to have you. That was a great night, because by that time I was actually thinking about: "Do you really have to go to like biology grad school or something to get in?" Because you don't like to make those plans. So it's like so many things in the world, one day changes your life. You know? One day. Maybe you didn't get into med school. You know? Marriages, funerals, birth of children. Changes your life.

SC: Hm. You were talking about Jesuits and what they like to think about.

DR: Uh-huh.

SC: Can you talk more about that? More specific things you remember from undergrad. What things they made you think about?

DR: Well, there was a lot of philosophy involved. Kant and Teilhard de Chordin and any number of philosophers, Nietzsche. You could debate these people fairly well. You could sit around and talk to them [the professors]. You got to think about, more of the important things of life, but you messed around and you had a lot of fun. But I just admired the way the Jesuits could affect or let you free range on your thinking, and give assignments that were interesting. You know, to recall everything in college. I recall a lot of the crazy stuff much more than I do the profound stuff.

SC: Yea. [Laughter]. Mhm.

DR: But, you don't do a lot of thinking in organic chemistry or physics. But in English and philosophy and religion. Because, you had religious courses at Holy Cross because it was a Catholic school. Social studies and the classics especially. I mean there were a lot of classics I read. I read Avid, the Aeneid, I read a lot of Greek works. I didn't read the Odyssey or Ulysses.

SC: Yea.

DR: But, in fact I didn't like Greek. It was very hard to learn compared to Latin.

SC: So do you think that's the reason that you were influenced to choose classics as a background, because of the Jesuits?

DR: Well, I chose classics in high school actually.

SC: Oh.

DR: You had to take classics at my Jesuit high school. Just mandatory back then. Since then it's been dropped as a requirement. But, if you have a very good classics teacher, Latin is a base language from which all the romance languages came.

SC: Mhm.

DR: And, if you know Latin, I mean if you think about how many words in the English language have a Latin derivation, it's incredibly helpful. No one speaks Latin - [Laughs]. If they do I haven't met them lately. You can read Latin and you can write Latin. Can I do either now? Absolutely not. But, it's sort of a challenge, and it's sort of a fun challenge. You figure, because Latin is all where the verbs are placed, where the adjectives are placed, it's all the declensions as you know. It's amo, ame, amas, - whatever.

SC: Mhm.

DR: But it does give you a background into every other language at least in the basic languages. It was just fun. Maybe not for some.

[Laughter, coughing].

DR: For some, French is more fun. So that was my strength in high school, because I had a very influential teacher. You know, we can get into why I became a rheumatologist. It's nothing that you read; it might be something that happened to someone and made you choose this for whatever reason, or it's usually someone influential in your life, and it may be one person. So, the Latin part came from my Latin and Greek teacher in high school really.

SC: You talked about when you got the letter accepting you to Dartmouth the one night.

DR: Uh-huh.

SC: Do you remember vividly that night?

DR: I remember bouncing off the walls. I remember, back in those days, you actually had phones that you dialed, or punched buttons. I remember making a lot of calls. I remember having an instantaneous party, three hours later with a keg. Just a wondrous night. I had a lot of hugs from my friends, and as I said it's a life-changing day. All of a sudden you realize that if you don't totally screw up then you're going to be a doctor. And the day before, you didn't know you were going to be a doctor. You didn't know you were ever going to be a doctor. It's like so many other things that happen, that are good and then there are things that happen that are obviously, you know, not so good.

SC:Instantaneous, yea.

DR: So, and I still remember that back in those days, everybody had in the college, and everyone
still had this mailbox with the little things you dial and going there and opening this mailbox and seeing this letter "Oh, another rejection. This is a thin little puppy." That was great - I still have the letter.

SC: The rejection letter? Or, the acceptance letter?

DR: No. The acceptance letter. There are certain things you keep, and that's in my folder somewhere, that you keep along with a few other sacred things from your education, or whatever. You know? It's like trying to find your graduation tassel I suppose.

SC: Yea. So, this was your senior year you said?

DR: It was May of my senior year that I - yea - you know. By that time most people have heard about getting into school, in April, March, February, so I was getting nervous because it was two weeks before graduation.

SC: Mhm.

DR: Because that was my senior year, yea. So it was just a great day. It's been good to me. It's been great to me.

SC: Did you know Cathy at this point?

DR: I did. My wife Cathy and I met in Bermuda. In 1970, it was a spring break trip and she was a sophomore at Rosemont College in Pennsylvania right near Villanova, and I was a junior at Holy Cross. I met her at a hotel, in a bar, I mean dancing. Dancing in a bar. She was just wonderful. I remember saying, she went up to get a beer, and I go, "I love a girl who buys her own drinks." She has not forgotten that to this day. "Well, he's a nice guy," she said, "but he's cheap." So, then we hit it off the next night and she was staying in a nice place, and I was staying at a dive in Hamilton, Bermuda. We had four guys in the room, and there was room for three beds. So one guy slept in a bathtub each night and we rotated.

SC: Oh no!

DR: And the bathtub dripped, so you didn't get soaked, but there was a drip at the far end of the drain, but usually if you were out late, you didn't really mind a drip because you just got in the bathtub with some pillows and, that's a true story - [Laughter]. There are certain things that stand out in your mind. Then I went back and saw her the next night and we actually just stayed out all night, by a lighthouse looked at everything and just talked. Watched the sun come up, because back then you could do that without feeling horrible for four days afterward, and drinking something called Mateus, which is a rosé from Portugal. It has a very distinctive bottle. If you go to the store now you'd be lucky if you found it, but it was all the rage back then. Mateus, everybody drank Mateus or you drank something called Boones Farm apple wine or Boones Farm strawberry wine, and we thought that was the greatest thing in the world. My friends couldn't get it at Holy Cross, or in New York, in Westchester her brother's and such. So I got it in Chicago, and I remember driving out in a car and bringing a case of boons farm apple wine with me, which was about two dollars a bottle, and they thought I walked on water. You know? Now, how we've gotten from Bermuda to Boon's Farm Apple Wine, I apologize. Then we dated for a while and then we had sort of a falling out, then we got back together in my senior year. Then I spent, I think I spent not that summer but the following one while I was in med school, I spent the summer between my freshmen and sophomore years at Dartmouth, first and second years, working in a hospital in Yonkers, New York and staying allegedly at Briarcliffe College which is in Ossining, New York. But in fact, I spent half the nights staying in Cathy's basement with her two crazy brothers. So that was an eye opening experience because these guys were not going to be doctors and they were still in college and they were wild. It was hysterical. Half the time her dad didn't know I was there, and if he did he would have killed me, so they'd sneak me in and sneak me out. But, I just really didn't want to go up to Briarcliffe from Yonkers, it was another half hour or so. I couldn't see Cathy if I did that.

SC: Mhm.

DR: I'd go up to Briarcliffe and what I had there, they put you up as, I had a dorm with a room and there was me, and you know me, I talk to the wall after a while. It gets boring. But I saw so much at this hospital in Yonkers because it was a city hospital. So, my job - I'm so glad you asked - was to ride the ambulance and go out and pronounce people dead. So, I would go out with the ambulance drivers and I would be coming to this place and you'd see this person and they'd be dead on the bed and I had to check their pulse and everything, and sign the stuff. I could never figure out why or how a first year, second year medical student could do that. Then, the most clear memory I have of those trips was that there was a guy who I had to go see that they called about who had been dead about five days. So we go in there, and I wasn't sure of this persons race. He was actually Caucasian, but you couldn't tell by that time. That was kind of, eye-opening. Then I worked in the ER, and there was a night when a guy had this accident. This rake came up and flipped up and hit him in the forehead, and he came in and he had a rake in his skull. The three prongs of the rake were in the front of his skull, not all the way in.

SC: Mhm.

DR: I definitely had to have an x-ray of that. So I go, "Wow! I've never seen a guy with a rake in his head."

SC: [Laughter] - I should not be laughing.

DR: So those, and then I would go out with the cops and the people.

SC: This is still in Yonkers?

DR: This is in Yonkers. This is when I was in medical school, and was "little doc" or whatever they would call me. You know? They give me some, I have like more nicknames, I have thirty nicknames. Some I could tell you, and some I prefer not to. I forget what they called me. Well, they used to call me like, they would call me "Joe college" would be one thing, because they really didn't care if it was med school or college because I was a young guy. So they'd call me "Joe college." I remember that. It was a tough place. I also got, during the day, to scrub in on surgery Since it was a small hospital and since the surgeon, orthopedic surgeon, had gotten me the position there, which was just free labor, I got to assist on all these surgeries, and do stuff that was amazing. Pulling re-tractors and things like that? What's that?

SC: Is that when you got started on rheumatology?

DR: Nope, i'm not there yet.

SC: Ok [laughter].

DR: So, then we had a wonderful place. We lived in Dartmouth. The first year I lived in a dorm, which was very boring. But, the second year four of us got together and lived in a big house about six miles up from Hanover, New Hampshire. It was called Piper's Lane. So we were the "Piper's Lane whatever's." It was just a great place to live, and Cathy has been there many times. We had these other guys live about a half mile down the road, on something called River Road, and we would play football games four on four on alternating fields.

SC: Hmm.

DR: It was just a great place, and of course when it snowed it started to get to you, but that's the way it is. Then at Dartmouth I played some hockey, on the intramural hockey team. I became an honorary member of well Dartmouth was all males then like Holy Cross so they had a fraternity called Tri-Kap. Kappa, Kappa, Kappa. So, a lot of the guys that had been at Dartmouth were Tri-Kappa, a lot of guys from Dartmouth Medical School were Dartmouth undergrads, probably a third. Small class, fifty people, and two thirds of us had to transfer, and I transferred. So I became an official Tri-Kap brother, and I just remember one night that we had a swimming meet in an inch of beer. So, you did backstroke in an inch of beer, the breaststroke. I had never seen a fraternity before because Holy Cross didn't have fraternities, Catholic school. So, here's another eye-opener. So, that kind of stuff if you could sort of let some steam off on the weekends, that got you through medical school, because you studied so hard. That was another story about carrels at the stacks in medical school too. My sweat is still on the wall, I hope they knocked it down. So Dartmouth was wonderful because it's a place like Cooperstown only with a university there, sort of like Hamilton, New York. It's about the same size, or it's bigger now, it's not as big as Ithaca obviously. Then you had to transfer. Two thirds of the class had to transfer because since 1789 Dartmouth was a two-year medical school.

SC: Oh.

DR: So, they gave you a Bachelor of Medical Science, and everybody had to transfer. So you would have forty people transfer out. But then, when I was there, year before they developed a year-round, three-year full MD program. But they couldn't take everybody because, clinical availability was limited in terms of where you could find patients. So two thirds of us still had to transfer. So six of us went to the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. Why? Well, the guy was very good at spinning a nice tale about Minneapolis, Minnesota. So, I got there in September of '73 and got married in October of '73 on a week break. Dragged my poor wife there, and it's a wonderful place, but if you're from New York, and I'm from Chicago, you haven't quite seen Minnesota. But, it was wonderful. Promptly developed a herniated disk about a week after the wedding. Limped around, had back surgery during Christmas break. Everybody in New York, her family wondered, “What is this guy doing? It's bad enough my daughter is working for a job while he is going to school, but here he's got a bad back." But there is one memory of that, it was in student health service, and I just wanted to get out, and I had this low-grade fever post-op thing. Back surgery now you'd be out in two days, back then you'd stay five days.

SC: Mhm.

DR: I couldn't get out because I had this fever of 100 - 101, so I started dipping my thermometer quickly in water. I mean those were the days when you put the thermometer in your mouth, it was glass. It wasn't anything in your ear. So, that's how I got out. I just said "I'm fine." [Unclear] "I'm good to go."

SC: Mhm - [Laughter].

DR: Minnesota was a wonderful experience because Minnesotans are just nice, nice, nice people. Everybody from the Midwest is nice, I think, Minnesotans especially. They're a hearty bunch because they're mostly Scandinavian, they're Swedes, they're Finlanders, mostly Swedes and Finlanders, not many Danish people. Beautiful weather, if you like it bitter cold. My wife stopped smoking in Minnesota because one night when it was forty below, she was out of cigarettes, and she refused to walk the two blocks to the store at forty below to get cigarettes, and that's when she stopped.

SC: Hm.

DR: I would say a few words about her, she had more jobs while I was in medical school and residency than you could even imagine. She worked for the Minneapolis Grain Exchange for a couple of brokers. She worked for something called Minnesota Early Learning Design, which is a school program for little kids. She worked in an employment agency. Those are probably the big three that I recall.

SC: This is Cathy?

DR: This is Cathy.


DR: She was a trooper. You know, you got a guy and you come home and he's just studying. Then we had two of our kids there. Both of them during residency. First was born when I was a second year resident, and our second one was born when I was a fellow in rheumatology at the time. So I finished medical school there, made a lot of good friends in medical school there even though it was only two years. Two years is a little different, you don't get to meet as many people as your four years, but if you're outgoing you'll meet a lot of people. We lived in St. Paul, most of the time, which was a great city. Very friendly, very "neighborhoody," sort of totally different than Minneapolis, which is very progressive and modern, and bigger, but a nice match, a nice mix. Things like playing broomball in the winter, where you use a broom and a big volleyball and play. We'd have broomball games, and ice-skating, cross-country skiing. The biggest memory was my grandparents were from Chicago, had a summer home, and it became their mostly summer-home in Rhinelande, Wisconsin, which few people know, but it was about three hours and a half, straight east of the Twin Cities basically. So we would go there a lot of weekends in the summer. The kids would go, and it would be great, because you'd be at the lake and you're with your grandparents, and it was like living the dream. I had grown up in this place in the summers, so a lot of great memories of Minnesota, a lot of people I had met. Not many sad things happened there, at all, that I can think of.

SC: And how long were you there for?

DR: We were there from 1973 to 1981.


DR: So, you asked how I got interested in rheumatology. So, when I was still a student, and so I did my third and fourth year medical school, I did my residency there in medicine, and I did my fellowship in rheumatology. But, when I was a student I had a wonderful rheumatologist who was just a dynamic guy and as I said, some people make a big impression on you, other people don't make any impression on you, or a negative impression. But, he was the person who motivated me to go into rheumatology.

SC: Hm.

DR: Just the way it is, just his approach to people, and just how good he was, and just, an incredibly bright guy who wouldn't pass himself off as being a bright guy.

[START OF TRACK 2, 0:00]

DR: He had many other diverse interests which is what you want to have in medicine otherwise if you don't have other interests it's going to be a long boring life.

SC: Mhm.

DR: So, that started there and I looked at a number of other residencies but finally got in the Minnesota program so we stayed right there, which was fine because we liked it. Then fellowship. I looked at several fellowship programs; Mayo-Clinic, couple of places, got in one place. But, we liked Minnesota so I was happy that occurred because then you don't have to move and you get good training. And, I was chief resident, which is the head of all residents at the Minneapolis VA for part of one year when I was also doing my fellowship. So, you could sort of overlap which saved you some time. There are so many stories, many, many funny stories about residency and fellowship that just boggle the mind. Just things that happened. I did research with New Zealand white rabbits. These were big rabbits, big rabbits. Sadly to say, I don’t think would ever have occurred today. I was interested in septic arthritis, which is an infection of the knee or a joint with bacteria, so these rabbits had the perfect knees to inject bacteria into and see what happened to the infected knee histologically versus the non-infect knee and how the host responds. We got some papers out of that, but I got payback because I became allergic to the rabbits, so whenever I would go in there, eventually I would start to wheeze and get tight, and have to use an inhaler, wear a mask, so finally I couldn't. My eyes would water, so I said this is the revenge of the New Zealand whites. I mean these babies were nine pounds.

SC: Jeez - [Laughter].

DR: They had big knees, you needed big knees. So that was a hoot! I remember one day in 1980 being in the lab in the research lab, listening to the USA - Russian hockey game. When the USA had the miracle on ice in 1980 and beat the Russians and then beat the next team for the Olympic medal. A bunch of guys were college guys playing the professional Russian team. Back then you listened to it on a radio in the lab, you didn't get it on your iPhone. Again, many, many nice people there that I still have some ties with. Again, you lose a lot of those things when you don't live there. We used to have a couple that, I knew their son from Holy Cross, and they lived in a suburb of Minnesota and they really adopted us in medical school. So you would go out there to this nice suburb and they would have all this food for you and you were really a poor medical student and you couldn't wait to go there. They might invite you to their country club or all these things. We stayed in contact with them a long long time. The dad, the guy finally passed away a couple years ago, mom is still alive at 93. We're good friends with their son and their daughter-in-law from way back in college. But just little things like that that make your life much easier. Melissa was born there in 1977, and Gretchen was born there in 1979, so two of them are Minnesota natives. I guess you could say.

SC: And how many kids do you have?

DR: We have three. George Raddatz was born here in 1981. So he is a Cooperstown native. He could actually be a Native Son. He is a Native Son! I can be a Native Son if I make it 50 years here, so I've only got 19 to go.

SC: What do you mean by Native Son?

DR: There is a group called the Native Sons of Cooperstown, and they're an organization.

SC: Oh. I didn't know that.

DR: You can only be a Native Son of Cooperstown if you're born here.


DR: A boy, a male, or if you've lived here fifty years.

SC: Hmm.

DR: I've lived here 31, so I've got 19 to go, I should have made that clear. So if I make it to 82, we'll have a Native Son party.

SC: OK. [Laughter].

DR: Yup. So I had good training there, and I worked on the staff of the VA for a year and then we came here. Other, other memories that I remember in Minnesota is it's so cold that you have to plug your car in. So we had a house in St. Paul and you would have to plug your car block, back then, into heat and just keep the oil heated overnight. They would have those plugs at parking lots too.

SC: The things you remember - [Laughter]. So, when you worked in Minnesota, you worked with resident students as well, and medical interns and things like that?

DR: Yep.

SC: Just like you're doing here?

DR: Yep. First I was a resident; then I was a fellow. The chief resident sort of sets all the schedules for groups of residents who have teams. Well, they have teams looking after people trying to keep one person that's a resident from killing his intern because he doesn't like him or her or vice versa, so you're always putting out fires. But I'm pretty good about that, that's where I learned sort of, you gotta be a mediator in the world.

SC: Yea.

DR: Otherwise, you're going to have a long, painful life. So, never think you're bigger than you are.

SC: Are there any, like, major differences between practicing medicine in places like Yonkers and Minnesota compared to Cooperstown that you can think of? Or, how it has changed since you've been here?

DR: Oh wow. Well, we'll talk about change in a moment, but practicing in Cooperstown versus Yonkers or New York City, I think much less stressful. Medicine is not stress-free ever, because you always worry about people. But it would just be a much more frenetic a place. I like coming to work at a place where I can park my car, I probably could leave my car unlocked if I wanted to. I'm looking at hills when I get out of the car, I live on a hill outside of town, I drive a mile and a half to work. I'm not going down the Hutchinson River Parkway or the Major Deegan. There's not traffic for two hours. In fact, now my patience is not as good as it should be in Manhattan or going over the George Washington Bridge in a traffic jam. In a small town you know this well, a small town is a small town, and everybody is very friendly for the most part and is very outgoing. A small town has the downside which is that everybody knows your business pretty much, and you would know that growing up where you did. But that's the biggest difference in practicing. I think the other thing is that we're a hospital that is a group practice, and if you're in private practice you wouldn't have the close proximity of doctors that you could tap their knowledge right next to you. For a long time the dermatology clinic was right next to us. So if I had a person in rheumatology with a rash, which is common. I could pull the dermatologist over and he would look at that and hopefully not be too upset that I took him away from his clinic, or if he had somebody in his clinic that he thought was rheumatologic in nature and had a question we'd go over there and take a look at that. Now, they've moved off site to Hartwick Seminary, so that's not quite what it was. So the camaraderie here was influential in terms of deciding to come here and the ability to talk to so many people and not have to make five phone calls to find someone who might be in private practice on the other side of Buffalo was an advantage. So, how did I get here? Well, we were in Minnesota and my darling wife had been a trooper out there for eight years, but her family was all in Westchester County basically. A lot of people from Westchester County believe the world ends at the Hudson River.

SC: Mhm.

DR: So we didn't get a lot of visitors. My parents, with me being an only child, and having two kids would, they were in their fifties or forties then. They would get to Minneapolis, 400 miles from Chicago, in the drop of a hat. So, it became one of those things where it probably wasn't going to work to practice near there, or they might be there - god love them - all the time. But that's tough on a daughter-in-law and we decided it was only fair to move back closer to Cathy's family. For some reason, I didn't want to practice in Greenwich or Westchester County and try to keep up with the Joneses' because I just didn't see that as good. There is more of a rat race there. So we came here, and I got a job here. 1981. Back then the whole medical staff who did internal medicine was about twenty-five people. So you could, back in those days, we had a Christmas party and you could put everybody in somebody's big house for a Christmas party. Now? Pff, forget it. You could have a party for the residents too at your house, it was a small number of people. So we liked it and we never left. You could say, "Well why didn't you leave?" Well sometimes I was tempted to leave, but it's a great place to raise kids, as you would probably appreciate coming from a similar type area. It's very bucolic. It's a good educational system, I think the drawback is you don't really see the big world. You’re not street savvy. So when you go off to college it is probably more of an eye-opener than kids from other backgrounds. It's a small school; you know, the high school I went to had a thousand, eleven hundred guys. Here you have, I think, about four hundred in high school, boys and girls. So that brings us up to how I got to Cooperstown I guess. I got the job in a roundabout way. A guy who was here, an infectious disease specialist, had actually spent some time in Minnesota doing a rotation there before he became the infectious disease person here. He knew my boss in Minnesota and put a call and said: "Hey, you know, Bassett hospital is looking for a rheumatologist, maybe you ought to talk to Don Raddatz." And so she did, and that's what happened. I got the job.

SC: Hmm.

DR: So that brings us to about 1981. We lived on Elk Street. Do you know where Elk Street is? It's a street, if you were coming from the hospital toward Main Street, there's a little street where the carriage museum is. It's all business offices now. It's a big white building.

SC: Oh, yea. OK.

DR: Next to it was a big house, which is now offices, which was 5 Elk. It was a huge house, but it also had an incredible number of bats.


DR: One night we heard this noise and I looked out and you could see these bats leaving and you could see these bats coming back, in the attic above us! I think we only had one or two in the house over the year we lived there. But, no one likes bats.

SC: Nope - [Laughter].

DR: I don't think anyone is fond of bats, but you learn to be good with a tennis racket.

SC: Yep - [Laughter]

DR: They're harmless little critters, but you always hear the worst things: "Oh you get bitten by a bat you're going to get rabies." Probably not. But no one likes to think about it, especially if you have little kids. So we got out of there in a hurry, and moved to our current residence on a hill outside of town. I have to say when I first went there I was really not that enthusiastic because I was used to growing up in areas where you always had close neighbors, in a suburb where there was a house next to a house next to a house. Minneapolis was the same, the only exception being Dartmouth, but that was medical school. So I didn't know what I was going to do on this hill, pretty much all alone, with thirty acres, twenty-six acres, whatever. But now, over these many years, I am so spoiled by living where I do, that when we looked at some houses a few years ago just to look, and say if we were to relocate where would it be? I said, I can't live here. I can't live in town. I can't have neighbors.

SC: Mhm.

DR: So, it's just paradise. You can walk around, no one bothers you, no one comes up the hill because it's a dead end. I mean,rarely. The dog can roam all over, you don't have to put the dog in the house. The dog is a Golden Retriever so she stays nearby. It's just paradise, except in the winter when it snows - [Laughter]. There have been a few occasions where it snowed so much that you couldn't get out. It would be two feet, three feet deep. Soon after it snowed you would hear this "beep, beep, beep." It was the guy who was our plow-guy and had a front-end loader, and he would come up the driveway with his front-end tractor. I mean a big tractor, and just have to scoop it out. You'd go: "Well, there's a big bill." Shoveling the roof, which I've given up now, because it's kind of dangerous. You know, if there is two feet of snow on the roof, you shovel it. When we first got there we had a swimming pool, which made us a nervous wreck. We bought it anyway, but with three little kids you have to build a fence around it with a lock, and as you know the pool season in upstate New York is about two days - [Laughter]. No, but it's not long. It's about two months. So when the kids all got older and it fell into greater disuse except for my wife swimming laps. Basically, the liner was in need of repair and this, and this, and this, and this. It was like a child.

SC: Mhm. [Laughter].

DR: You were always changing the filter; you were getting water bags to hold the tarp on in the winter. So finally when it got to the point when we didn't want to fix all of this. We basically pulled the liner, it's a sand bottom liner, and then caved in the sides, and all the metal sides are six feet under the back yard. Just imploded it, so it was good, I have pictures of that. But, I don't miss it much because it was a real, real, real headache to take care of. For the amount of time that we got to use it, all the leaves in there, find a dead squirrel in a filter. Stuff like that.

SC: Ew, no. You said when you moved into high school in a different area, it kind of like opened your eyes to different lifestyles and different communities, and then you said when you were here, you know there are only 400 kids or so here, and that your kids don't really learn about that. How did you, did you ever do something to tell your kids about differences in that?

DR: Yea, yea. Usually I just tried to tap into my own experience. But, kids don't really want to hear that much, because they say, "Yea, yea, you're old." Just going back to my education it shows I ended up learning downtown back and forth, and where to go on the loop in Chicago, and restaurants to hang out with kids in that were fun. Long before Pizzeria Uno became a chain, there was Pizzeria Uno in Chicago, and Pizzeria Due, and actually the more famous one was Due. Now the chain is Pizzeria Uno, but they were owned by the same family. They started back in about 1947. So we used to always go in Pizzeria Due for dinner with your girlfriend or whatever. If you have friends that are on the Southeast Side you learn all about Hyde Park where the University of Chicago is; some guys live there. You'd go there, you'd go out to the West Side, you'd go up North toward Wrigley Field or Evanston is, and so you got to go all over the city and just learn it like the back of your hand. A lot of people never actually get out of their suburb it seems. People from Chicago tend to stay in Chicago, but I guess I was different. All of my friends are doing great there, but they really never left the city, but that's neither here nor there. So, but my kids became, I think, more savvy as they went along. One went to William and Mary, one to St. Lawrence, another went to Virginia tech. So Virginia Tech is a very big school and you learn a lot. William and Mary you learn some things, and my guess most importantly, they learned most because two of them went to New York or [Washington] DC to live and work, and there you really got to mind your p's and q's. You've got to be careful about where you put your stuff. I had a daughter recently who left her stuff in the laundromat, put it in the dryer, came back, and it was gone. That had never happened to her and she was stunned, and I go, I don't give advice to 35 year-old's. But I said, "that just shows you got to watch your laundry in the dryer." But they actually caught the person!

SC: Wow! [Laughter].

DR: They had cameras! They got this lady on videotape and she came back, and they apprehended her, and she gave back all the clothes.

SC: Hmm.

DR: Yep, so Melissa got all her stuff back. She said, "Dad they're like Columbo, they've got all these videos." I said, "Well, why would she be so silly to show up again." Beep! She shows up. That's about as crazy as you want to get - [Laughter]. I don't know if that answered your question at all, but I'm having fun with it.

SC: Yea, no it was good. I was just wondering how their experiences compared to yours, I guess. I mean, just because you spoke about diversity, and it's funny because you said "most people don't ever leave Chicago."

DR: I think their experiences are far different from mine. Your kids don't like to hear you tell all these great tales that don't pertain to them. But, see they got to do things that I never got to do. If you're in a boys high school of eleven-hundred guys, athletic teams are very, very competitive. So I was a pretty good baseball player, actually I was a good baseball player, in little league and pony league and things like that, colt league. I tried out for the baseball team, and I didn't make the team and I didn't do track or run long distance at that time and I certainly couldn't play basketball at this all boys high school, but I was a good golfer so I was on the golf team for three years. Even that, that was travel. It was all over the place, you played matches way north etc. etc. So the difference is, here it's much easier to get on an athletic team. So there's not that angst about not making the team and doing nothing. George Raddatz was a three sport athlete: soccer, basketball, track. Melissa was cross-country, track. Gretchen was soccer and track. So, it was much easier to, you could see your kids play a lot more. I mean my parents never saw me play a sport at Saint Ignatius high school because you didn't go out and watch the golf team, really. But, the beauty of working here was back in the day when medicine was not as somewhat burdensome as it is now with forms and all that stuff. You could actually leave here [the hospital], and have someone cover your practice or whatever at about 4:30 and go to the soccer game and come back and do the rest of your work.

SC: Hmm.

DR: So I was blessed to see my kids play a lot of sports. A lot of track meets, a lot of soccer. We all travel as families to games, to track meets, whatever. Here, again you want to be in the school play, you're going to be in the school play. But, at a big high school, you may not be in the school play or you may have some small role. The kids, well two of them, were great, were very good actors or actresses if you will, so you got to see a lot of that. So there was always this deep immersion here in stuff. Somebody nicknamed Cooperstown the town of child worship. [Laughter]. So everybody thought that the soccer team, when they were good, should like, win the state, or the track team should win the state. Then you realize that, "Hey this is class C soccer in upstate NY." That's all it is. And I was as guilty as anybody else at taking it too seriously. I mean I coached travel soccer for boys and girls, so we'd go to Greene, or Vestal, or Chenango Forks, Chenango Valley, or Endicott, Trumansburg, Candor. What a way to spend an entire Sunday, but it was good. You know, you took the kids and you thought you were helping them out, and you had a lot of funny stories about that too. Played Candor one time when there was two things that I remember there were that the other team had two girls and they go: "Oh look at that, they have two girls," and I go, "I wouldn't be so smug about this." The other thing was they had this electrical line that was about thirty feet up across the field, so I saw the ball hit the electrical line on kicks about three times. It hit this wire. Then of course they lost like two to nothing, and I said, “How did it feel to play against the girls, guys?" Then all they wanted to do really was to go out to eat, and I really wanted to just go home. I used to stop at either a Burger King or McDonalds, that was all it meant to them after that. [Laughter]. So then I go, you guys are sure all stars at eating! [Laughter]. So, I don't know, where do you begin to tell the stories about Cooperstown.

SC: You mentioned something about, how working at the hospital was different when you first started here, compared to now.

DR: Oh, how did medicine change?

SC: Yea, that's a good one.

DR: So, you have to realize that when I was a resident Cat Scan's were just coming into being. They were there, but they were early. So a CT Scan was really a piece of great information. X-rays were still the backbone of things. X-rays, for many years you took the package in your hand, held them, put them up on the screen and looked at them. Then Cat Scans, so it was a long time before it ever got to an MRI.

SC: Hmm.

DR: In rheumatology, back in the 70's early 80's we were still using gold shots. So, gold is a heavy metal, and there was some research that was done in the 60's, 70's that showed that people with rheumatoid arthritis seemed to get better with injectable gold put in their muscle. Small amounts, tiny amounts of gold. No one really knows why. Some people think it had an effect on the immune system, in terms of something called the reticuloendothelial system, which will gobble up certain types of complexes you don't want in your blood. So you would give these people shots every week of an injectable gold derivative and see how they did. So, that changed to an oral drug which worked very well called "Methotrexate" for years, and then there was nothing else. So, for a long time you had one good drug that might work for people. If it didn't work, it just didn't work, and you had nothing really else much to offer them. Things changed in the late 1990's with medicines that have been very effective for rheumatoid arthritis called "Biologics," which means they're synthetically made. There are shots under the skin, there are intravenus forms, and it's just changed the face of treating rheumatoid arthritis, or things of that nature dramatically. There were all paper charts, you wrote everything, or you dictated it. You dictated on little cassette tapes, and popped them out, sent them in a little package for transcription, and hoped for the best. There were residents I trained that are now with me here, there was times when we were short staffed for emergency room positions and I would have to take a turn in the emergency room, as a rheumatologist, praying that a pediatrics case would never come in. So I had one case come in, pediatric, a kid with seizures. I go, "Oh, this is a little out of my ball park," so I got the anesthesiologist there to help me with this kid and the pediatrician a.s.a.p. We used to have to stay over night some in the hospital and take call in the hospital, as an attending doctor. You used to be an attending physician, which means you supervised the residents for a period of time, and then you would rotate off and then another guy would come. It used to be, when I first came here, it was a month at a time. Now if you worked on the inpatient service now for a month, you would lose your mind, straight. Because the complexity of medicine has changed so much. When I first came here, if you had rheumatoid arthritis, since I said there wasn't much to do, you could actually admit a patient to the hospital for R&R. Meaning they came in, you'd let their arthritis settle down, a physical therapist would come, you might start them on a medicine. They could spend five days in here just trying to see if their rheumatoid arthritis got better with rest, or getting them on a regimen, getting the physical therapist to work with them. Now, that would never happen, you just would never be admitted with that! You would be sent out of the hospital within a day, and they would say well, “It doesn't make the criteria to be admitted to the hospital, doctor." So, those things have changed. The imaging techniques have changed dramatically. The whole concept of medical record keeping has changed, especially in the past few years with electronic records. It's a system that has it's pros and cons, it's all checkbox, or guess the word the computer wants to enter in some lab, or enter a procedure, or enter a diagnosis, or enter a medication. It's good about capturing data, I think it depersonalizes medicine because you can be one of those people who types their notes and doing this [mocks typing] and the patient's not getting anything out of it, so I refuse to do that. So I will do my notes later, and put things in, just the minimal stuff and double check things, and then just after being out of the room go do it between patients or at the end, which makes for a much longer day, but medicine is long days for the most part. For some people more than others. Rheumatology is more of a people-oriented sub-specialty in that you get the story, you examine them, it's not like looking at an x-ray, and that's not being offensive to a radiologist, it's not like looking at blood smears in the lab, or a diseased liver like a pathologist, but it's coming into someone's story and you walk in the middle of the story, and they're going to tell you the story, and you got to figure it out, and you're part of their story. I often said "Where do you find a profession in the world where you can go in a room and say, 'OK, take your clothes off,' and people do?" [Pauses]. [Laughter]. Think about it. How many people do you know that have a job, that they walk out of a room half way through and say "OK, now take your clothes off and I'll be back"? You'd get arrested in most jobs. So, I've always thought that was sort of a funny, amusing thing. It's got a grain of truth to it. There is a great deal of trust between a doctor and patient, has to be and confidentiality is the key.

SC: Mhm.

DR: You go there, and the last thing you want to do is have some violation of privacy or something. You don't talk about people on the elevators; you don't talk about people in the cafeteria. I don't do e-mails, because e-mail is not secure. If people e-mail me with their problems it will just add another layer to my day. It's one thing to have phone calls to answer, it's one thing to be in clinic. But I long ago said, "We're not getting into this e-mail thing because, you'll have people that could e-mail you to death once they got on topic." So with the e-mail I say, "It's good that you contacted me but you're really going to have to contact my office, and we'll figure out what you need." Because, people don't mean to be intrusive.

[START OF TRACK 3, 0:00]

DR: There are all kinds of people; there are people that just consumed with their health. I didn’t say neurotic, I said consumed. What else has changed? The number of people on the staff. Care is a little bit more impersonal I would say because of computers and a number of other things, but the people don't change much. It's hard to have people leave, and I've seen a lot of people come and a lot of people go for different reasons, and sometimes good people leave. That's discouraging because sometimes you don't ever replace those people. Sometimes good people pass away or they retire. Sometimes you don't get what you had before, sometimes you do. But you've got to make the best of it.

SC: You mentioned basically how technology increases, and things like that, medicine had drastically changed over time since you've been here. Do you know, or could you speak more about how being in a rural medicine area, practicing rural medicine, if it changed at a different speed compared to other areas?

DR: That's a hard one. We're certainly not a year behind things, and I think Bassett is a little conservative and slow to change on things, but since there are so many bright people here, we tend to be pretty good about getting cutting edge stuff. So the real strength at Bassett is it's a really strong hospital, it's a big referral hospital. It's affiliated more tightly with Columbia then ever in a town of two-thousand, four-hundred people.

SC: A referral hospital?

DR: Well, what I'm saying is that there are community hospitals like Hamilton, or Chenango Memorial, which are community hospitals. But if that person has a problem that they can't fix; some sort of a fever, infection, cancer, lung problem, they will refer them here. So it's a center where you get more advanced care because there are specialists.


DR: So, that's the referral nature of things. So for a small town, very powerful referral hospital from way back. Way back from when Mary Imogene Bassett opened the hospital. The Clark's have been influential in supporting the hospital. When I first came here the budget was so small that if there was a million dollar shortfall, in terms of expenses and income, the difference would be made up by just tapping into the interest on the endowment from the Clark's. However, then Medicare got involved and it became clear that Medicare is setting all the rules. We were behind much more money and it was not going to be sustainable to do it that way.

SC: Hmm.

DR: So that changed the face of medicine as well.

SC: Medicare did?

DR: Yea, I mean it's a good and bad thing. It certainly has given affordable care to many retired people. But, Medicare is very good about saying, "Well, this is how much we'll pay for this procedure, and I know what you're charging up front, and it looks good that you've charged all of this, but this is what you're getting." So you contract with them. Then the other insurance plans usually key off Medicare, because they know Medicare bartered for this, why can't they barter for this?

SC: Hmm.

DR: Yea.

SC: Do you deal directly with that a lot, or?

DR: No.


DR: If you're in private practice here's the trade-off: you are not paid in general like you would be in private practice for your income. You're watching income, you're watching your office help, you maybe have an x-ray facility in your office, you have a lab. But you're doing all your bills, you're doing all your management, you're doing your own malpractice, etc. as examples. But here your malpractice is covered. You don't get into the hassle about dealing with Medicare; the billing office does that. You are salaried, your pension plan is basically, it's from the hospital, it's put in the pension and so much percentage of your salary. There's a supplemental plan that you can do and you can't even touch until you leave. So, there's a trade-off. So you could say, "Well, this is for the person that doesn't want to think much about that," and I guess that's true. Because you've got to be careful because if you don't think about it, you have this Utopian dream that you will be great, when you're whatever age, sixty whatever, because you're a doctor. But if you're not careful you may not be that great in terms of how long you work. Examples. I mean there is no such thing as a poor doctor in the sense compared to many people in the United States, don't ever get me wrong there.

SC: Hmm.

DR: So bigger staff, facilities changed when I was here. When I was first here everything was in the Field-stone building. The Field-stone building is the original building across the street, across the patio from the hospital. Then about fifteen years now they built that clinic where we are now. So that' changed the face of everything as well. But, the Field-stone building was a weird place, it was wonderfully weird. Again we're small. We got so much bigger you couldn't stay there. The hospital was built before I got here. Great residency program. Residency program has changed now because of internal medicine being less desirable a specialty because it's not a high paying specialty. It's really labor intensive, we treat all kinds of adult medicine problems. So when I first came here we had a very, very, very strong internal medicine program with just amazing residents, many of whom have stayed on the staff here or around the country. Over the years since the pool changed, I mean people aren't going into internal medicine much anymore compared to before, you are seeing more foreign medical graduates that fill the spots who really want to get in a good U.S. program, and so it filters down. So we have a lot of residents from Thailand who are excellent, I guess that's the biggest group. India, Pakistan, and a smattering of others.

SC: Mhm.

DR: So, that's changed too. The nature of the residency program and language is a tough thing for them. Although, they know far more English than I will ever know Thai.

SC: Mhm. How did you get involved with the residency program there? Is it a voluntary thing, or do you have to do it?

DR: Oh, you have to train residents.

SC: Oh.

DR: So I'm one of these people though, that apart from the hospital, likes to enjoy life. So I've done a lot of interesting things over the years out of the hospital, besides coach stuff. We got into lip-sync many years ago - [Laughter]. Back in the early 90's, so we’ve had a lip-sync group for I don't know how many, maybe we had fifteen.

SC: This is for the residents, with you?

DR: This was when I was on the staff, and we started with five guys and one was a liquor distributor sort of sales man, and one was a teacher, one worked for NYSEG, and two of us were doctors. We did all these crazy steps and there are still some video tapes around of this stuff. Because we did all kinds of things. We did YMCA before it was ever over used. We did the California Raisins one time, came out and stripped down, had these big funnels on and became the Pointer Sisters. We did a Bill Clinton take off one time, in terms of "Hurts' So Good," and "Wedding Bell Blues," and somebody played Monica Lewinsky. We did Ghostbusters, we have done, more recently a Hawaiian theme. It was Hawaii two years ago and we did "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" by that guy that weighed about 450 lbs who died, and we won that year. Last year we were second doing "I Go to Rio and Conga." I had quite the outfit, but we take great pride in dueling the graduate students. We've lost a couple times, but we've beat them lately in terms of higher ranking, which is of course annoying to them and to Gretchen Sorin. Again, the non-hospital stuff. Cathy has had a number of jobs here. One at the hospital, sheesh, I can't remember what she did early on, I'm just forgetting. But, for many years now, maybe fifteen, she's worked at the Cooperstown Graduate Program PR but more so fund development, loves the students. No question, I’ve met many many many students, have had many things at our house. We always have some alum staying with us that Cathy has asked me when they're already en route if they can stay with us. [Laughter]. I said, "Well, if I said no would it really matter?" She says "no." So I've enjoyed the Graduate Program, it's just great to have the students come and see them so excited and all the work they do and how funny they are. I always love to see the slide show. I always love to be invited to parties. There have been some priceless students over the years, and I'm sure there are some that I don't know that, like in every program there might not be the ideal person, but I think they get an outstanding crew. Again, that's another program that's really close-knit because it's a small town, and you know that yourself. I have no database for comparison, but when they say it's one of the premier programs in the country, I've got to believe it. I've got to believe it. So that, and then I've run 8 marathons.

SC: Wow.

DR: Starting in 1984 at age 35 and that was one of the most interesting ones, because we were training for the Wine Glass Marathon, which is from Painted Post to Corning. So that was going to be in mid October in 1984. Then there used to be a race here called the Adam Helmer. Now, Adam Helmer was the guy that I think in the French and Indian War ran about twenty miles to warn the fort at Herkimer about the approach of whomever. So this sort of retraced his steps on this run, with the Indians chasing him. So it started in Schuyler Lake. You know where Schuyler Lake is, where the little post office is. You would go up to Richfield, you would go over Route 20, into Jordanville, past the monastery, and over these rolling hills and then downhill into Ilion over to the Mohawk, and then up the road to East Herkimer, and finish in the cemetery of all things.

SC: Hm. In Herkimer you would finish?

DR: In East Herkimer on the south side of the river it's still the town of Herkimer. Being young guys we fortunately survived. But this marathon I finished 24th out of about - [Laughter]. Or 23rd, so it was my highest finish ever, so I never tell anybody the denominator. Water stations every three miles. In any marathon they're a mile. The crowd you could count on probably your hands and toes for the most part. So we got further and further along, and we said, "Hey! We're going to finish this thing, and then why we're going to do the wine glass?" We're 22 miles down the road but, you realize when you head down a steep hill like Dickerman Hill or a similar hill that we had to go down, that your quads have to tighten up to hold your kneecap as you go down, and it became torture going down. Every time you'd tighten up to go down hill on a stride because it was a steep downhill you wanted to just sort of cry, and I said there's a big mistake, this is horrible. But we finished and we did OK, and then I ran in Washington, D.C. twice, Chicago twice, the Wine Glass, we did do once, which is a separate story, and then Boston once, and one other one. But, we all ran together. There were six of us, for the most part.

SC: Six of you from medicine?

DR: No. Well, 4 doctors, Dr. Streck, myself, Dr. Dietz, Dr. Roth, Mike Stein who is a PR fundraiser at the hospital, and a guy named Bob Snyder who works for New York Central Mutual Insurance. So, the six of us would be inseparable on the road for many years, and not everybody would run the marathon at the same time. I can't tell you how many times I've run around the lake and that I could do a virtual bike ride knowing every little hill by heart if you take someone on a spinning bike. We became known as the "running buds." So there is a girl here, Lauren Groff, who is actually a famous author now. But, she wrote a book that, called "The Monsters of Templeton," which I think most graduate students should read. So if you read the book there is a group of runners that make their way through this book, it's like "the Greek chorus" and that was us. She modeled these 6 guys after us. Now, the funny thing was she explained each person's baggage, each guys' baggage early on and you weren't sure if you were that guy or wanted to be that guy, or were you that guy, and I don't like this about that guy, and finally she pulled us all together and said, "Look. It's just a book. None of you are those people. Get over it! You're not this good guy." So that was good. So the running buds, we all got running buds shirts from her and stuff like that.

SC: [Laughter] - That's funny.

DR: So, she became famous and of course Dr. Groff's daughter Sarah is an Olympian. So we shared a lot of those things. The most emotional marathon I ever had was in 2002 when my wife's brother, George Morell died on 9/11 at the World Trade Center. So, I ran that race for him. But, what happened was I started training in January it was an April race, and I was going up the east side of the lake and it was icy, and I got up toward Glimmerglass State Park, and I went up old hill, and I pulled some muscle in my buttock off the haunch bone you sit on there, and every time I took a stride it was miserable. There were no cars out that day. Maybe two people passed me and didn't pick me up. But I basically had to walk back 7 miles after having sweated all the way up the road, and I'm just freezing. So finally in town I get a ride to the gym, and I must have sat in the shower 20 minutes, then I realized I hadn't brought the car down there. I had started from home, and I still had to go home, up the hill. So, I said this is a problem, because it hurts every time you take a stride. So I went to my orthopedic friend, and I said, "I've got to run this marathon for my brother, I just have to." He goes, "Well, this is going to take a long time to heal, can you run without training?" I go, "I'm going to have to." So that's when I took up spinning. Spin-biking and that was 2002, so I guess I've been spinning for 10 years. I would go in the gym, I would bring food and whatever, and I would spin initially for an hour and then I got up eventually to three hours on the bike straight, because I had to do that. By the time I got to the marathon I had no problem with endurance, but unfortunately I had not been in my running shoes ever. I had not realized my foot had changed by half a size. So, I ran about two miles literally the day before the race, I didn't want to take any chances and I felt fine. Then I got to the Boston marathon and this guy's in front of me waiting to use the facilities who had run 26 marathons. So I told him about what I was doing, and he talked to me, then he came back out of the facility and said "Good luck in your experiment." That's when I got really nervous. So what happened was the first eight miles were fine, then I felt this incredible burning in my foot, and I said, “That is a blister." Then I just said, "Oh, that's random." Then I got another, then I got another one, then I got another one, then I got another one. So, by the time I get to Heartbreak Hill, which is whatever it is, I'm pretty miserable. I'm slogging along though, I'm alright. Then my friends joined up and Dr. Groth ran the last six miles with me, or such as it was running. That's a funny story, he's running with me and I've got this shirt on that's soaked and he's got a Middlebury shirt on and he's only run 6 miles so there's nothing on it, and they're going "hey you're lookin' good, you're lookin' good, you're lookin' good, ya look fresh!" I go "oh my God." So, I get in there and I cross the line and he had to peel off not to cross the line and I go through the line and I get my medal and I realize back in those days, he didn't have his phone, he didn't have any money, he didn't know the hotel I was staying in and here we are in the Boston Marathon in this huge crowd. I'm sort of half out of it because that's how you are after a marathon and so I walked down this crowded street, packed with people, and he goes "Donny!" I go, "Hey Jerry." Not realizing that he would have had no way to know where we are, just sort of walked into him! I mean I picked the right street out of thousands of people, he goes "you can't believe what a good occurrence this is," and I go "let's just walk." So we get back to the hotel and it didn't even make an impact on me until later. So we get back to the room and I go, "My feet are killing me," and I said, "Oh, they're bad." So, Dr. Dietz was there with me too and I go, "It's like Rocky, you've got to take my shoes off." He goes "well your toe boxes are pink." I go "take my shoes off."

SC: Ugh.

DR:So I had a blister on about 8 toes, lost 6 toenails.

SC: Yuck.

DR: Eventually. That was a mistake. Always check your shoes. Something changed.

SC: So, you've talked a lot about sports, because I know you're very involved with the community, is that how you use it?

DR: I've taught spinning now as an instructor, for six years, and I really like stationary biking and I think it's been good and I think it keeps you young. It gives you an appreciation for music. You meet people. All you've got to do in this world is be friendly and be nice.

SC: Mhm.

DR: I say to my kids, "If somebody's on your back what you want to do is kill them with kindness," and "they're not going to be able to handle the kindness." They're expecting you to come at them. So you just kill them with kindness and smile.

SC: Mhm.

DR: I don't know. I probably have some enemies I don't know about, but I don't tend to collect that many enemies. So I think that if you are consistent and nice to the person that makes the least little bit of money and to the person that makes the huge amount of money, be appreciative. So there are people that I've worked with for years that don't make that much money that I'll never forget the day I retire.

SC: Mhm.

DR: You've got to get along with people. I don't know, I just like to talk to people, and I think I'm OK at it. So anyhow, I ended up being a spinning instructor, we're doing Food Bank rides to support the Food Bank. We have one coming up this Sunday. This 90-minute ride. We usually raise about 400 dollars for the food bank on the average, which is important around Thanksgiving. Then I have done some auctioneering at various benefits. I like that. So, I guess if you said I was introverted it wouldn't be true. What would I like to do? I would like to read a lot more books; I'd like to see a lot more movies again. I would like to act and I'm hopefully going to take acting lessons shortly through the Smithy, because I want to do that. I'd like to get some small role on stage somewhere. I have this thing about being in front of a crowd, but I think acting is fun, kind of like lip-sync sort of acting. [Laughter]. So, I hope to do that. I love to travel. We've traveled to a lot of places. We spent three months in New Zealand. On a sabbatical from here in 1989, forgot about that. So I was here 8 years then, and back then if you were here six years on staff you could take a sabbatical, three months pretty much anywhere you want after you got it approved. Our kids were 12, 10, and 8. I had met this resident physician in Minnesota when I was a student and he was from New Zealand and he said "if you could ever come, you should come and you could work with me." So, I contacted him and we went from January to April of 1989 with a 12 year old, a 10 year old, and an 8 year old to New Zealand. We rented a house there. The kids enrolled in school. George played cricket. The two girls swam for the middle school. They had to go to school, we lived in a town that was an art-deco place on the North Island which was sort of like, had palm trees all the time. It was never cold, the coldest it ever got was like 40. It was amazing. It was like LA, on a small scale. New Zealander's were wonderful, we saw beautiful scenery. We made lasting friends there with this couple. It was just a special time. I mean, I got a little homesick I must say. It was back in the day when there were like 4 t.v. stations in 1989. You listened to the BBC news at night, for American stuff and British stuff. But, it was another great thing, because I knew these sabbaticals were going to go bye-bye. Because they paid your salary while you were gone. They paid all your benefits, everything. You got a stipend as well. So, you didn't lose anything by going. Sure enough, when greater financial burdens hit the hospital about 6 years later, they were gone.

SC: Hmm.

DR: Back then the difference is, there were three rheumatologists, two guys could cover your practice, it wasn't that big, for three months. My partner went two years later to Cambridge, England. That was in the summer and we covered his practice in the summer for three months. So, it was a smaller world and easier to do things I think. Probably, in many senses less to do, and it was less complicated. Medicine became more and more complicated, more and more technology, people to their benefit are becoming much more savvy about health care.

SC: Mhm.

DR: The quality of healthcare has increased but the cost has increased, unfortunately, even more so than, more so.

SC: We are close to time, so I have two other questions. One is do you have any major regrets?

DR: Wow. [Laughter]. Major regrets? Major regrets? It's not a regret, it's a function of being a doctor. There is a lot of things that you miss because you're on call. So if you were on call every third night or every fourth night with a beeper, and you might be stuck in town. Even though I saw my kids do a lot of things, there were a lot of great things that I missed. So that's one thing. I figured out, I've been on call, if you count residency, because I've been in medicine now 37 years, so probably if you wore a beeper and you were either at the hospital or home, and everyday for like 11 years or 10 years that would be my life. I think I would get home late a lot, a lot of nights early on. Just by being a doctor. So I regret not being home to help Cathy more who did, who obviously is their mom, did great, and she did great! Plus, after a while, after the kids got older, she was working a job. I mean I have a good relationship with my kids but I think you can never re-do things that have already happened. You can't ruminate on it either. That would be the biggest regret. I guess the other thing would be, and this is a small regret, I wish I had taken time to play an instrument. That's why I'm going to get into acting. But, I played the accordion growing up. No one wanted to hang out with you if you were playing an accordion. [Laughter]. But, if you were in the South Side of Chicago and if you've ever heard of the Lawrence Welk show, everybody saw this accordionist on there and he was Myron Floren or something, and everybody wanted to be like him if you were on the South Side of Chicago. If you weren't Irish you were Polish and in a Polka band. So I played this thing for three years, and it was one of these classic things where when you were big enough, well you weren't big enough, you get this full-sized adult accordion you just about fall over with it. So actually to hold it on you, there are the two straps on the accordion, but what you don't know in kids is there was a second strap in the middle with snaps in the middle to hold it to your sides there so it wouldn't fall off your shoulders and you wouldn't fall down and crack your chin. So, I hated it, and I shouldn't have because now the accordion has made a big comeback, and you can use the accordion sort of in Southern Folk and Bluegrass and stuff like that. So I wish I had done that or played something else. I don't mind to hit the drums a little bit. So I don't have many regrets about that. You know, something you regret? Well, why didn't you move to a bigger town and you could have made more money or whatever. Yea, there are trade-offs in life. It ain't about money always.

SC: Mhm.

DR: There aren't many regrets here. I have made a lot of friends, so I can't say "Jeez I didn't make enough friends." But those are the things that come to mind.

SC: If you had to pick one, and it's hard to pick one, but can you tell me about something; a specific event, or some specific thing, or person in your life that has influenced you the most?

DR: I'm stalling on this one I think.

SC: It doesn't have to be one.

DR: OK. So influential people. My grandfather. He lived to be 101. He was just one bright guy. Sometimes you're much closer to your grandparents than your parents, my case. I mean I love my parents, and now I'm close to them. He was just a very bright man. Self-made. He started out as an upholsterer in this furniture company on the West Side of Chicago and became the plant foreman. Just a very sensible guy. A happy guy, lived a long time, and had a great wife, my grandmother. Just a funny guy who would do anything, and sort of like me, he would do anything for anybody just about. I never really saw him angry too much at all. So he had a lot of wise things to say. Just watching him. He didn't really have to tell you anything, just watching him. Other influential people? That's one. Sometimes advisers in college are helpful and an influential person is my wife, I mean you can't beat that. Who else can influence you more than your wife? She's your soul mate and she better influence you. Events that influenced me? 9/11 had a big influence; life is short. Every time I have a kid born, that's an influential event, so my kids influenced me too. My friends influenced me. All you need is about, you don't really have, if anybody says they have a hundred close friends, that's probably not true. It's a person you can call all the time when you've got a big problem. So I probably have five close friends, if you have five you're a blessed guy actually.

[START OF TRACK 4, 0:00]

SC: Mhm.

DR: So, I can't think of anybody at the hospital that I would say overwhelmingly influential. I think those would be the people that stand out, and that you would take notice of. We draw off everybody, you draw off every generation. My parents are obviously influential too, my uncles, and aunts, and sisters, and I mean cousins. I have no siblings, so that makes you a different kettle of fish. So there is no one to get in an argument with, but there's no one else that's going to have to absorb things that are going on directly with your parents or whatever except you. You don't have a choice, you're either an only child or you're not and that's the way it is. But, if I said life has been bad to me, that would be a lie.

SC: Hm.

DR: It's been good.

SC: Good.

DR: But, life has it's ups and downs.

SC: Mhm.

DR: So, things happen and for some reason you don't understand, you never understand what happened. I think the most important thing is I have a good relationship with my kids all these years, and there are some situations where we all know that no one is talking to someone. Taking a history from a patient, "I don't know my dad, I haven't talked to him in years." So I can call my kids anytime, and they'll call me, and I call a lot. Some people don't have that. I guess they just don't have that, being that fortunate, good fortune.

SC: Hm.

DR: So, it's all about family and friends, and doing what you like. If someone said, my favorite phrase is "how are you doing today?" I say "I am living the dream." [Laughter]. So, I always close with that. Sometimes I don't know what part of the dream I'm in, but I'm living the dream. Because there is no, medicine is a great job, and you see something different everyday. Yes, it can be painful, you've got to tell people bad stuff, it can be incredibly rewarding. I mean I can think of people with, especially new medicines, a young lady a few months ago she had horrible rheumatoid arthritis. Multiple swollen joints, couldn't function, she had little kids. So she started taking this medicine, came back two months later, and said "You gave me my life back." So she's crying, I'm crying. Incredibly gratifying, sometimes incredibly depressing. But through it all. Some days are hard, and you get up just because you know what a long day it's going to be. But my approach is, never throw someone out of clinic because you're in a hurry, so people end up waiting for me sometimes. But if someone needs something done, I don't want them to leave and say "come back next week when I have time." Part of it's you don't have the time probably, so we finish it there. Somebody once said to me "You know, the good thing about you is when somebody comes to you, you always get them an answer, or try to get them the answer, even if it's not your specialty." So I get people the other day and some lady asked me, "Can you feel this lump? Is this a lump back here? What do you think this is?" [rubbing behind ear]. So all of a sudden I'm looking in this lady's ear, not her shoulder, not her elbow, but her ear and this bone behind it. Or, they'll tell you about their family. Medicine is about listening and just listening first and then trying to figure it out. Where else would you come into something and tell them, get in the middle of their story, and they're going to tell you the story, and you get to listen and you get to enter their story and figure it out? Try to.

SC: Anything else you want to add to it? That I didn't ask, anything I didn't ask about that -

DR: No, I'm just very delighted that you interviewed me.

SC: Me too.

DR: If it means something to somebody someday, whatever. I just had a blast with you, Sam!

SC: [Laughter]. Thank you! Me too.

DR: I appreciate you doing it.

SC: You too.

[END TRACK 4, 4:18]



Bit Rate/Frequency


Time Summary

00:40 - Chicago Upbringing
02:51 - Interest in Medicine
04:15 - Holy Cross, Premed
15:45 - Met Wife, Cathy Raddatz
18:30 - Briarcliffe College, Yonkers New York, Medical Student
21:45 - Dartmouth College
24:30 - Minneapolis, Minnesota, Marriage, Back Surgery
29:05 - Rheumatology
[end track one]
03:20 - Children, Native Son
05:30 - Comparison between rural and urban medicine
15:25 - Raising children in a rural area, teaching children about diversity
21:00 - Cooperstown High School sports
22:50 - Changes in practicing medicine in Cooperstown
[end track two]
01:40 - Referral Hospital, Medicare
07:00 - Lip Sync
10:25 - Marathons, Lauren Groff and The Monster's of Templeton
20:35 - Spinning Instructor, Food Bank
22:05 - Sabbatical in New Zealand
28:00 - Major life influences, 9/11
[end track 3]




Samantha Clink, “Donald Raddatz, November 4, 2012,” CGP Community Stories, accessed September 29, 2022,