A grandmother is a mother who has a second chance

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Goodbye to a friend

Today I found out that Dr. Irving Schulman died last Thursday. A very sad discovery for me. He was my boss, my mentor, my friend.

When I started working at Stanford Hospital in 1988, Dr. Schulman was the head of Pediatrics. I met him a couple of months into my job and he welcomed me and immediately said something to make me laugh. That was one of the things he was known for - his sense of humor. The other thing was his integrity.

I remember in those early days being in a meeting with a group of physicians and they were discussing some senior lab techs were refusing to follow a new mandatory glove-wearing policy. Mind you, this was in the early AIDS days and hospitals were just starting to require glove wearing. After a lot of back and forth about how to get people to follow policy, etc., Dr. Schulman slammed his hand on the table and said, "We're talking about the health and safety of the staff and the patients. There is no wiggle room. Either she follows the policy or she goes!" Because he was who he was, his voice carried a lot of weight and the Board agreed with him. I thought, "Now, that's a physician I would love to work for". No bullshit, no game playing, no politics.

In talking with his assistant one day, I mentioned that I would love to work with him. When she resigned her position a couple of months later, she arranged for me to have an interview. I met with him and answered a few questions. By this time he and I had developed a really good relationship. He asked if I had any questions. I said, "Yes, what do I need to do to get this job?" He said, "If you want it, you have it!" And that was it. I became the Director of Medical Staff Services at the Children's Hospital and that developed into the 20-year career that I retired from last year.

Dr. Schulman retired a couple of years later after the new hospital was built and open. He had poured his heart and soul into that new facility and wanted to be there for it's first year. When he retired it left a huge hole in leadership that was never adequately filled. But luckily he continued to come to Grand Rounds and conferences and when he was in the building, he always came to my office to visit, catch up, and make me laugh.

He could be very gruff. I remember back in the late 1980's walking down the hall behind Dr. S and a new intern. A really cocky intern. The guy was saying, "I don't see why I have to do all that paperwork. I'm a doctor. The nurses should do it." Dr. Schulman stopped walking, looked the intern right in the eye, and said, "You don't have to do all the paperwork. And you don't have to stay in our program. The decision is yours."

Dr. S and I had a lunch date the middle of January, 2007. He called a couple of days before and asked if it would be okay to postpone our lunch for a couple of weeks as his wife was coming home early from having shoulder surgery. I said, no problem. We could get together in February. About a week later he had a stroke and never fully recovered. He was such a vital man. So energetic, well-traveled. Always dressed impeccably. I used to call him Adolph Menjou who was an old dapper movie star and we would always joke that he and I were the only ones who even knew who Adolph Menjou was!

Before he came to Stanford, Dr. S was the head of Pediatrics at Children's Memorial in Chicago. A couple of months before his stroke, he gave me a lapel pin he had found from his Children's Memorial days. My brother is now the head of Pediatric Derm at Children's Memorial so Dr. S told me to give Tony the pin to wear on his lab coat.

After he retired and I was no longer working for him, he used to tell me to call him "Irv." Although I was on a first name basis with all the other physicians at our hospitals, I continued to call him Dr. Schulman. He would grumble, but smile. He just always felt a little bigger than life to me.

Now he's gone. They'll be having a memorial in August and my daughter and I will definitely be going. I'm sure there will be many funny stories told, some tears shed, and we will all be reminded of what a special place he held in our hearts and lives - a place he will remain for all of us.

Goodbye, Irv.


ba and the boys said...

it is always a wonderful moment to say i stood next to greatness-it sounds like you did.
sorry for your loss.

It's Me said...

yes, he is now "bigger than life."

namaste said...

he sounds like he was an amazing and wonderful man to be around. this is a beautiful tribute to him, sandi. may he rest in peace.

Jenni said...

It's hard to believe Dr. Schulman is gone. He always seemed invincible.

Proud Italian Cook said...

Sorry for your loss Sandi, he sounded like a wonderful man!