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Vital Signs

Retirees are cutting trees and keeping bees

By Jennifer Durgin

One of the pleasures for academics of achieving emeritus status is the freedom. Emeritus faculty can remain as involved as they wish in their departments but aren't tied to hectic clinical, research, or teaching schedules. Here is how those named emeriti at DMS within the last year are occupying themselves.

Trees: Surgeon Michael Mayor, M.D., still attends Department of Orthopaedics lectures at 6:30 a.m. every Wednesday, "just to remind myself that I don't actually have to," he says. And he still works with the Dartmouth Biomedical Engineering Center, a repository he helped establish of over 9,000 retrieved orthopaedic implants. The William N. and Bessie Allyn Professor, Mayor came to DMS in 1971. Now that he's retired, he's branching out from medicine. He recently became a certified tree feller and is an active member of Tree Climbers International. He also serves on Hanover's Planning Board and has 10 grandchildren to keep him busy.

Trails: Biochemists Jacqueline Sinclair, Ph.D., and Peter Sinclair, Ph.D., shared a lab (as well as a home—they are married to each other) when they first came to DMS in 1978. "The best way we could survive scientifically was to work together," says Jackie Sinclair. But within three years, they each had their own grant funding. She studied the effects of alcohol, arsenic, and other substances on a family of proteins called cytochrome P450 (CYP) that are necessary for the metabolism of many drugs. He specialized in CYP as well; among his discoveries was the fact that one of the CYP proteins is a trigger for the disease porphyria cutanea tarda, which is associated with a buildup of iron in the liver. Both are now pursuing other interests—including building trails on their 175 acres in Ryegate, Vt.; researching local history; and traveling to Italy and Australia. Although they're still passionate about their research, they say they are relieved to be leaving the grind of grantgetting behind.

Babies: John Brooks, M.D., graduated from DMS in 1966 and returned in 1994 as chair of pediatrics and medical director of the Children's Hospital at Dartmouth (CHaD). A pediatric pulmonologist, Brooks was active nationally with research and education on cystic fibrosis and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). He served on an American Academy of Pediatrics task force which recommended that healthy babies sleep on their backs because that position reduces their risk of SIDS. Since then, the rate of SIDS has declined in the U.S. by more than 50%. Brooks also helped to found the Friends of CHaD, which last year raised over $2 million. He stopped practicing in 1999 after he was seriously hurt when his car hit a moose. Since then, he has served on various national SIDS advisory councils, as well as on local and regional boards and committees concerned with public health and children's health.

Clinics: Sol Rockenmacher, M.D., a 1961 DMS graduate, says he's had two different careers "in a sense"—one in general pediatrics and one in pediatric cardiology. Long before joining the DMS faculty in 1986, he helped Dartmouth pediatric cardiologist Richard Waters, M.D., run clinics all over New Hampshire for children with rheumatic and congenital heart disease. In 1988, he became board certified in pediatric cardiology and, over the next two decades, provided outreach to such children. In retirement, Rockenmacher is now spending more time with his five grandchildren and continuing various volunteer activities, such as serving on the Dartmouth College and DMS Alumni Councils and staying active in the Friends of CHaD and Temple Adath Yeshurun in Manchester, N.H.

Bees: Since coming to DMS in 1990, hematologist Pamela Ely, M.D., Ph.D., has held many posts. For almost 10 years, she directed the lymphoma disease management group at the Norris Cotton Cancer Center and codirected DHMC's bone marrow processing lab. But the well-being of her patients "was always my most important source of satisfaction in medicine," she says. Perhaps that's not surprising for someone who earned a Ph.D. in philosophy (at the University of Toronto) before getting her M.D. (at McGill). Now that she's retired, "I am reviving old skills," she says, "like playing the piano." She's also learning how to keep bees and continuing to write and speak about lymphoma and immunotherapy.

Neurons: Since joining the faculty in 1976, physiologist Walter St. John, Ph.D., has been investigating the mechanisms behind automatic breathing (the kind that occurs with no conscious effort) and gasping (the body's rescue strategy to restart normal breathing). He's found that normal breathing requires complex interactions among neurons in many regions of the brain stem, but gasping is caused by a single region. "Accumulating evidence points to a failure of the gasping mechanism as the basis" for SIDS, he says. St. John plans to continue his research at DMS until July 2009 and then will work for a few months each year with a collaborator at the University of Bristol, England. "Beyond that," he says, "[my] personal plans are flexible."

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