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Meliora Moments

James D. Thompson

University Faculty/Staff

“Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” is the definition of insanity often used by Albert Einstein. In 2007, Dr. Ray Mayewski, the Chief Medical Officer for Strong Memorial and Highland Hospitals, reminded me of this definition. As my personal physician, he was referring to my ongoing issue with my weight.

Managing my weight was a problem off and on in my life. During school I was a physically fit, all-county football player. I could have easily played college ball. But everybody else kept getting bigger and I stopped growing. I liked the position I played and knew I didn’t really want to change, which I would have had to do. I also went to a school where football was not a good option. So when I stopped playing, the first 20 pounds was easy to put on and not terribly noticeable. By the time I realized I had a longer-term weight problem, it was an unfortunate habit.

Thirty years later and with two heart stents, diabetes that required two kinds of insulin, elevated blood pressure, and back problems, I was beginning to run out of options. I had tried almost everything with insignificant success. Doing the same thing over and over again was not going to improve my health. In fact, someday it was probably going to kill me.

Dr. Mayewski’s personal concern, incredible expertise, and interpersonal skills were clearly evident when he told me about our bariatric surgery program. I knew I needed to enroll. I met Dr. William O’Malley, the Director of the Bariatric Surgery Center at Highland Hospital. He was a pioneer in the field of bariatric surgery, and the Center is truly national in scope. People come from all over for this very comprehensive approach to successful weight loss.

I had the surgery in August of 2008, with tremendous support from Ray Mayewski, Joel Seligman, the trustees, the leadership of the Medical Center, alumni, my staff, friends and family. I woke up with eight small incisions and had a very successful recovery. I took six weeks off from my job, which was very difficult for a multi-generational workaholic, but I needed the time off to commit to a change in lifestyle. The surgery probably saved my life. I learned first hand what we mean at Rochester by “Medicine of the highest order.”

It is the tremendous quality of the people who make up and surround Rochester that makes it such an outstanding University. As one of the great national research universities, it is hard to think of a field of human endeavor where we do not have exciting people making significant contributions. The Rochester “Meliora ethos” creates an environment where so much of that work is at a life-changing and internationally important level. This was just one of my “Meliora Moments” since arriving at the University of Rochester in 2005. It is an amazing place with amazing people, and I can say it probably saved my life. For this I will always be grateful.