The Letter 1968
It would have been a real fun time for us if things had happened like I had projected. I had completed an MD, PhD program at Boston University School of Medicine. MY MD came first. It’s a professional degree and academically equivalent to a Master’s Degree which is a prerequisite to the higher PhD achievement. I had successfully defended my PhD thesis on the “Role of Catecholamines in Hypertension”. The title impressed my father but few others. I was an expert in high blood pressure–big deal.
I remember the day I got the letter from the Dean’s Office officially congratulating me and announcing the date for commencement. The letter also contained an offer for an appointment as Assistant Professor of Pharmacology at the medical school. I was ecstatic. I could envision my whole life before me. I would advance to Associate Professor and achieve profound Nobel Prize results from my high blood pressure research. I would make full Professor before I was 40. I was 27. There was also a note that I owed BU a hundred dollars for registering my two language translations of foreign medical journal articles–a PhD requisite–from the year before.
“Hey Barb I got the mail. You have to read this.” My wife Barbara had just put our infant son David to bed for a Saturday afternoon nap. I carried the rest of the mail in waving the Dean’s letter in the air.
She read it. “Great. It’s what you expected. It’s your turn to change the cat litter.” She thumbed through the rest of the mail. “What’s this? A letter from Washington? It has the President’s Seal on the return address.”
“Go ahead and open it. It’s probably another offer from NIH for their national high blood pressure group. I don’t want to live in Washington. I want to be a Professor at BU Medical School.” I went upstairs in our two-bedroom rented duplex to check on our new son.
“Oh no! Come back here,” she shouted waving the DC letter in the air. “I thought you were exempt. We have a new baby. You’re in important research. You have health issues.” Her face was a mixture of anger and panic.
“What? Let me have that.” I grabbed the paper and read the letter addressed to me specifically and signed by President Lyndon Baines Johnson. I read it out loud. “Greetings and Congratulations. You have been selected to serve your country in the Armed Forces of the United States of America. Please report to your Selective Service Board within 2-weeks of receipt of this notification.”
“Maybe there’s something we can do. Why don’t you call your medical school advisor?” Barbara is solution oriented.
I called him at his home. We had a more than graduate student-mentor relationship. We were friends. “Angel has this ever happened before?” I asked. His name was Angel Panaglothcopoulis and was both an MD and a PhD as I would soon be so bestowed. My tone was pleading.
“Not to any of my students. You know I’m from Greece and just a recent US citizen. My voice may not mean anything. Why don’t you try Bill McNary? He was in the military once and he knows BU grads who might have been caught up like this.”
I called Dr. McNary. He was a friend too as well as a full Professor of Anatomy. I could be frank with Bill McNary. “Bill I got friggin drafted!”
“How was the draft notice addressed?” He asked after a chuckle.
“It’s to Peter Glassman MD.”
“Okay, you have a definite out. You haven’t completed your internship and therefore you don’t have a medical license. President Johnson can’t use you in an MD capacity.” He was sincere and calm.
“What about my family status, Bill? I have a new baby. Don’t they draft single men first?” I wanted more than just a no internship deferment. “And remember my operation when I was nineteen. I had half my stomach out for bleeding ulcers. I can’t eat military food.”
He laughed. “Look. On Monday call Senator Ted Kennedy’s Boston office before you go to the draft board. There’s a war going on and during wartime certain restrictions to military service might apply to you.”
I explained to Barb and she had more patience than me and just brushed everything off until Monday.
“If you pester me about this anymore you’re going to be changing diapers the rest of the weekend.”
Barb was just under 5-foot with a perfect figure even after the first pregnancy less than a year ago. She was more stable about what I perceived as a domestic crisis. She also believed that “What will happen will happen whether you agonize over it or not–so just don’t bug me.”
Barb would never develop ulcers.
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