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'This is where I belong': Yale School of Medicine


I get accepted to Johns Hopkins School
Sherwin Nuland Surgeon
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When I applied to medical school, my Jewish friends from the Bronx, who were much like I was, except their parents spoke much better English and they could read and write, were applied to 35 schools, because of how difficult it was to get in. I had a classmate who didn't get into medical school with 35 applications. He applied to the Harvard Law School and was accepted. Harvey Frank was his name, and he became a very successful lawyer. Well, I applied to 25 schools, because I was cocky; 25 was safe, for me. And the first school that invited me for an interview was Johns Hopkins, notorious at that time for a very small quota of Jewish students. So, I put on the only suit I had. It was an alumni interview at Goldwater Memorial Hospital in the East River, in New York and the fellow who interviewed me was a very patrician guy. He was a professor in one of the New York medical schools, a graduate of Hopkins and the Hopkins training program. His name was J Murray Steele. And we had a wonderful interview, and less than a week later, I was accepted to Hopkins. I couldn't believe it, even though it was my due. On the one hand, I thought, well, here I am, you know. I get all these great grades and I'm sort of, you know, an intellectually smooth guy, so I should get into Hopkins, but I can't get into Hopkins. But I did.

And to give you some idea of how peculiar that was for someone of my background, the night I got in, my aunt Rose, who lived with us, I heard my aunt Rose on the telephone, talking to one of her friends in Yiddish. My Yiddish name was Shepsil which is why is why everybody calls me Shep today. I've always been called Shep.

And she said to her… now again, this was Johns Hopkins, and I heard Rose saying to her friend, Becky - and it's now a family legend - she said, 'Shepsil [sic] has gone into Johnsons Thomson's medical school'. I mean, that's where we were. Johnson… whoever heard of Johns Hopkins? When I was thinking about college, not that I could have gone to a place like Yale or Harvard, but all I knew was that President Roosevelt's sons had gone to Harvard and so had he. That's all I knew about Harvard. I just… you know.

Sherwin Nuland (1930-2014) was an American surgeon and author who taught bioethics, the history of medicine, and medicine at the Yale University School of Medicine. He wrote the book How We Die which made The New York Times bestseller list and won the National Book Award. He also wrote about his own painful coming of age as a son of immigrants in Lost in America: A Journey with My Father. He used to write for The New Yorker, The New York Times, Time, and the New York Review of Books.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is a London-based television producer and director who has made a number of documentary films for BBC TV, Channel 4 and PBS.

Tags: Harvard Law School, Johns Hopkins School, Goldwater Memorial Hospital, Harvard University, Harvey Frank, J Murray Steele, Franklin D Roosevelt, James Roosevelt

Duration: 2 minutes, 50 seconds

Date story recorded: January 2011

Date story went live: 13 September 2011