The Brain

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What was it like to be a "brain"? Ted asked me to write this, since I did attend an Ivy League college, then go to medical school, and I'm now teaching for a medical school. I have no recollection that by high school I felt that my quirky ability to "get" what the teacher was saying more often than not was anything more than a good teacher just making a lot of sense. I do recall with some embarrassment that I did not work nearly hard enough in math and so college math was painful, leading me to jump to biology, which was glorious fun.

Having had my glasses rearranged several times in grade school for being a bratty "me, me, ask me teacher" kid who had the temerity to correct a fourth grade teacher's spelling and other kids' mistakes, I had pretty much given up on wondering or worrying about other kids' concepts about me. I was trying to be a bit more grown up.

I found the whole experience of being in school and being talked to by teachers as someone who was interested in what they had to say to be intoxicating. Just to give two examples, but they are not the only outstanding teachers, Mrs. Spetz was demanding, and we loved her. Mr. Woolum challenged us, except when he wouldn't teach us calculus, and we loved him. I am including quite a few of you, my classmates in this, because I really thought of you and me as serious students and peers and did not think of myself as much different in kind as (perhaps, only perhaps) different in degree of seriousness. Can you say "obsessed," children? I knew that you could.

When Mr. Kerr taught us the Constitution in the first semester and then gave us a pop opinion quiz in the second semester, most of the class would have happily thrown out the Bill of Rights as bad new ideas we didn't need. I got it (and shared his pain, he had taught the heck out of the Constitution), but thought that it was only from wanting to know it. Was I respected by my peers? I guess I did feel it from those of you who I also respected for your keen interest in what we were there to do. Was I teased? Not at all, I just wasn't "in" even though I worked VERY hard to do sports, clubs and Student Council. (Bob Thyken, in math and in Student Council meetings WAS an impressive and intimidating "brain," that much I remember.)

I was so happy to be learning new things that it only hurt a little bit to be an outsider from all the fun everyone else seemed to be having. Here's the best part, it's really true that it is never too late to have a happy childhood, so by the expedient of refusing to grow up, by having an insatiable curiosity about trying to learn new things, I am definitely having one! Of all my toys, the one stuck between my ears is still by far my favorite, I hope it keeps working a long, long time!

Martin Draznin

[Ed. Note: Martin went to Harvard and now teaches Pediatric Endocrinology.]

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This page updated: June 20, 2014