By the time Jack Adler, SB’59, MD’62, got to Pritzker, he had already been at the University of Chicago for almost a decade. First he attended the Laboratory Schools, and then he graduated from the College.
“Medical school was quite different from the College,” said Jack, a retired pulmonologist. “It was much more regimented, and it was a very small class.”
From day one, Jack welcomed the chance to communicate with patients. When he was in his first year of medical school, he and his classmates were each assigned to a pregnant woman to meet with once a month to talk about her pregnancy. And as an M2, he and his fellow medical students interviewed people who lived in a geriatric facility. “It was a chance to talk with a person going through a normal life event,” Jack said, “and get some sense of what it was like to talk to patients.”
During his third and fourth years, knowing how to talk to patients became even more critical. Every day, during his rotations, Jack and the other students would take a patient’s history, examine that person, and do lab tests, like a blood count or urinalysis. Then, he would write up a report and the next morning, he was expected to present this patient to the attending physician and lead a discussion about the person’s illness. “I would do this every day, five days a week,” Jack said. “That stimulates you to do things right.”
Jack’s wife, Judith Adler, AB’59, AM’61, a graduate of the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration, also had an opportunity to participate in medical school interviews, but from “the other side of the window,” she said. After graduating, she worked for a year as a psychiatric social worker at the University of Chicago Medicine. “The staff would listen in when medical students were interviewing patients,” Judith said. (She noted that she never had to observe her husband when he was a student.) “And after we would go through the entire interview with the student to help them improve their interviewing skills.”
Once Jack graduated, he and Judith moved to New York. After practicing pulmonology at several hospitals, Jack joined Mount Sinai Hospital, where he is now professor emeritus. In the 1990s—at a time when a tuberculosis epidemic was threatening the lives of HIV/AIDS patients in New York City—Jack developed a tuberculosis elimination program at Mount Sinai.
While they haven’t lived in Chicago since the early 1960s, Jack and Judith, who practiced as a school social worker until she retired, still feel a fondness for the city and for the University.
“Hyde Park is sort of an enclave,” Jack said. “You could be born at Lying-In Hospital, go to nursery school and high school at Lab, go to college and graduate or professional school at the University, become a faculty member, and if you happen to be chancellor, you could be buried in Rockefeller Chapel. You could never leave, and you could have a very, very interesting life.”
Both Judith and Jack feel that their lives and careers have been influenced by the University of Chicago—a fact that has led them to become loyal supporters of the institution. “Medical school was demanding,” Jack said, “but it taught me how to study, how to read, and how to approach patients.”
For Judith, “the enduring impact has been that I’m not afraid to ask questions of anyone,” she said. “It’s not that you have to have the answers, but you have to be able to ask the right questions so you can get the answers. I hope that we’ve transmitted this to our kids and grandkids—that this is what’s really important.”