By Cathy Englishman, Osher Member

Three years ago, after a 41-year career in Richmond as a gastroenterologist, Peter Goodman retired, deciding he was ready for a new adventure. He immediately signed up as an Osher gold member and decided to fully immerse himself in the program. In addition to taking seminars on a variety of topics, he also agreed to teach several Osher sessions based on his medical expertise. Peter immediately became a favorite instructor. Recently he became a member of the Osher Leadership Council.

On a May afternoon, Peter and I sat down to talk. Our conversation sailed by as he described his love of medicine, the challenge of the diagnosis, the beauty of nature, and the power of listening. In the middle of this dialogue, we talked about Peter, his theories on the medical profession, his goals for Osher and his enjoyment of his little red Miata.

What was life like growing up?

“My family moved to Richmond from New York City when I was 10 or 11 years old. It was culture shock!” Peter had already decided that he wanted to be a doctor. He loved learning. He graduated from Thomas Jefferson (TJ) High School.  He remembers taking Latin, using a slide rule and studying calculus.  He then headed to the University of Virginia where he majored in English. From UVA, he went on to the Medical College of Virginia (now VCU), followed by an internship at Sinai Hospital before returning to MCV and starting his practice. Peter said, “I realized early on that I liked going to school more than working.” So, he headed to Georgetown for a residency in gastroenterology and then returned to his practice in Richmond.

Why did you major in English when you wanted to go into medicine?

“I loved literature and I knew when I got to medical school I would not have time to read for the sake of reading. I wanted to know Tennyson and Browning.”

After a career in Medicine, now what do you think is your most valuable attribute? 

“I always practiced due diligence and was curious about how things worked.  But it was listening to my patient that was most valuable. Treating the whole person — the big picture is most important.” By the way, Peter pointed out that his early English major was a significant contributor to these skills.

In addition, he credits his personal philosophy for guidance and direction as well. He paraphrases Albert Camus:

Do not lead me. I may not be able to follow.
Do not follow me. I may not be able to lead.
Walk beside me and hold my hand.

Do you miss your practice?

“Yes. I dream of my patients and my practice of medicine! I miss helping people.”

What attracted you to the Osher Program?

“My wife Ann (Ann Goodman, W’69) was involved in initially establishing the program here at UR. I was intrigued by the exposure to such a variety of disciplines. I didn’t have time to do those things before. There are no tests. That’s fun! To learn, just out of intellectual curiosity. Is there anything better? Makes you a more interesting person.”

What are your goals as a member of the Osher Leadership Council?

“I love the cooperation between the Osher Program and the University. I want to explore getting more professors involved. Not to increase the number of classes, but to continue to focus on variety and quality.”

What are some of your interests outside Osher?

I asked about the Mazda Miata convertible in the driveway. “Oh yes, my Miata! My red Miata! Her name is Dulcinea from The Man of La Mancha! I enjoy my sports car and driving with the top down.”

“And, I do love to work in the garden. I had to wear a coat and tie for so many years! I love to get my hands dirty and feel the dirt under my nails.” 

Peter grows medicinal plants including Valerian, which was used by the Pied Piper in the children’s fairy tale to put the children to sleep and lure the mice out of town. He also grows St John’s Wart in his garden.

“I love to collect ‘old’ medicine.” He finds old medicines in antique shops. Some examples include Lydia Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound, which was 29% alcohol. Then there’s Lightening Hot Drops — not more than 60% alcohol. It also contains chloroform and ether. FDA caution: Don’t use near fire or artificial light.

In Summary

Peter Goodman is truly a 21st-Century Renaissance man. He loves to read medical journals in his peaceful garden. Add to this his love of the arts, nature, and the thrill of the ride with Dulcinea, and you have a uniquely complex gentleman!

Photo caption: Peter Goodman with Dulcinea in front of the Modlin Center for the Arts.