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Vital Signs

Clinical Observation

In this section, we highlight the human side of clinical academic
medicine, putting a few questions to a physician at DMS-DHMC.

John Turco, M.D.
Associate Professor of Medicine

Turco is director of the Dartmouth College Health Service and a clinical endocrinologist. He specializes in sports injuries, treatment of transgender patients, and adrenal and thyroid disorders.

What made you decide to become a physician?
I mentioned to my mother when I was a freshman in college that I was "thinking" of being a physician. I never had a chance to change my mind after that, since I was quickly being referred to as "my son, the soon-to-be doctor"! Actually I've never regretted the decision.

How did you become interested in endocrinology?
I eliminated a lot of other possibilities. I'm an ex-jock, so it was often assumed I'd be an orthopaedic surgeon. But I always enjoyed the intellectual challenge of figuring out and treating endocrine-related disorders and also liked the fact there are a variety of endocrine issues, and in most cases the patient can be helped by successfully treating the disorder. Something I have discovered, however, is that I spend much of my time answering the question "What the heck is an endocrinologist?"

What do you like most about your job?
The variety—between college health and endocrinology and within each field. I'm a people person and get to interact with people of all ages as colleagues, peers, patients, and students.

What are your favorite nonwork activities?
Spending time at home with my family, and also visiting family now that our children are grown; doing odd jobs around the house; watching sports live and on TV—baseball, hockey, football, the Olympics; reading when I get a chance; and spending as much free time as I can with my "trophy wife" of 37 years!

What about you would surprise most people?
I still passionately care if the Boston Celtics win! I've been around Hanover and Dartmouth since '74 (1974 that is, and, no, dinosaurs weren't roaming the Dartmouth Green at that time).

What kind of music is on your iPod?
My 28-year-old daughter loaded my iPod so I could use it working out at the gym in the morning. She separated her own music into "Dad OK" and "Dad not OK," then mistakenly loaded the wrong set on my iPod. So I've been listening to a variety of eclectic music, including rap, hip hop, opera, and country. I have learned quite a bit about life, especially from the rap, and it takes a lot to shock an endocrinologist!

Where would you most like to travel?
India, Southeast Asia, South America, and China (haven't been there). I very much like to see and experience different cultures up close.

Who, living or dead, would you like to invite for dinner?
Robert E. Lee. I would love to ask him what the hell he was thinking at Gettysburg.

What was your first paying job?
Bus boy at a Hayes Bickford pancake house. I learned to dread Sundays during first Communion season, since in those days kids had to fast overnight to receive Communion, and afterward they flocked into the pancake house and pigged out and made a huge mess that I had to clean up. Another lesson I learned is not to try to make hot chocolate in the coffee maker.

When you were young what did you want to be?
I am sure a professional athlete, then a teacher-coach. But, alas, as I noted, I made the fatal mistake of mentioning the possibility of becoming a physician and "that's all she wrote."

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