I have traveled the world, met Presidents, kings, refugees and criminals. For thirty years I combined parallel careers of Head and Neck Surgery and medical reporting for network news. I have treated the famous and the infamous. I have performed surgery on earthquake victims and enemy fighters in faraway lands. I have told complicated scientific stories to millions of people on television and in the early evening hours I have sat at the bedside of a dying patient just to hold his hand. Being a correspondent made me a better doctor and being a doctor allowed me to dig deep and be a different kind of medical reporter.
I left medicine on my own volition shortly after my sixtieth birthday because I knew the time was right. Doctors have expiration dates whether they like to admit it or not. I knew my time had come. My life as a correspondent came to a more abrupt halt after I was seen in public after returning from Liberia and an Ebola outbreak. I had promised to stay at home for two weeks, didn’t, and NBC News fired me. The highs and lows of two amazing careers.
All of this brings me to now. Rediscovery, redefinition, and reimagination have brought me to what I call The Third Third. What was I going to do next? How would I define myself and have meaning in my life? The answers were waiting for me in Big Timber, Montana.
I found a small ranch on the Eastern slopes of the Crazy Mountains and made this small town my new home. I now run cattle on my land twice a year, tend to my horses, and I opened a home goods store called thistle creek on our Main Street. I stay in touch with medical developments by still devouring medical journals and serving on the boards of biopharma and medical device companies. The big life is quieter now. No more Emmy awards. No more international scientific meetings. But a life of substance in my own version of the American West.
From the most sophisticated operating rooms to makeshift operating theaters in war zones and refugee camps, I have seen what human misery and hope can look like in the same person.