Gary Stahl ‘72 was a member of the men’s lightweight crew team during his time at MIT, and today he can still be found out on the water rowing with his current team, the Undine Barge Club, in Philadelphia.
Currently a Professor of Pediatrics at the Cooper Medical School of Rowan University, Stahl teaches full-time after retiring from clinical practice two years ago. The former Engineer graduated from MIT in 1972 in Course 6 (Electrical Engineering) and Course 7 (Biology) before going on to earn his M.D. from the University of Rochester in 1977.
If you can recall, why did you choose to attend MIT?
I was advised that if I wanted a scientific career, MIT was the best place to pursue that goal.
How did your athletic involvement aid in the path that you chose following graduation?
I was able to row during Medical School, residency and I'm continuing to row now. A wonderful life-long endeavor.
How has your experience at MIT (athletics, academic, or both) affected your current role as a Professor at Rowan? Is there anything specific from MIT that you feel has impacted your approach to teaching and your interactions with students?
My education at MIT, earning degrees in both Electrical Engineering and Life Sciences, has been invaluable as I was prepared and, in many ways ahead of most others, as computer technology became more and more involved in health care.
My comfort with machinery played a role in becoming a Neonatologist since the ICU environment is dependent on monitors, pumps and ventilators. As a Fellow in Neonatal Medicine, I developed a coding system for information from the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit that became a neonatal data system which is still in use today. I also installed our group's first local-area-network climbing into the ceilings to lay the cables myself. A small step looking backward but a major accomplishment at the time. As physician/engineer, I was also able to participate in the design of two of the pediatric inpatient floors and in the design of the medical school building for the Cooper Medical School of Rowan University.
What is your most fond memory of MIT athletics?
The pancake breakfasts Coach Jack Frailey would cook before home races. Vance Smith's support after my father's death. Another fond memory: When I stroked the lightweight JV, we brought our boat out of the boathouse with a cadence that was made by our hands hitting the frame of boat. Everyone would turn and look as we moved to the outside dock, put the boat into the water, pushed off without anyone's assistance and rowed out to our race. This ritual both psyched us up and hopefully did the opposite for our opponents.
You’ve continued to row after your college athletic career. What role has rowing played in your life over the years?
One lesson from my years on the crew team was that teams succeed when the entire team works well together and when everyone's role is appreciated and valued. Modern medicine is clearly a "team game" and I encourage the medical students to value the contributions of everyone on the team including housekeepers, secretaries, dieticians, etc. These team members may be in the background but the patient's experience would be significantly impacted without them. The bedside nurse's observations and recommendations should also be taken seriously by the physicians on the care team. I also encourage them not to ask "what to do" but to ask "why do it" so they understand the rationale or physiology upon which that action relies.
Although I rowed for some of the years during medical school and early in my pediatric residency, I was unable to find time to continue to row until I retired from clinical practice about 2 years ago. I have enjoyed getting back on the water as a member of the Undine Barge Club, one of the rowing clubs on Boathouse Row in Philadelphia.
One of the highlights of my return to rowing was my participation in the 2018 Reunion Row as a member of the Class of 1973 boat. Although I an officially a member of the Class of 1972, I graduated in 1973 and rowed with several of the '73 alumni that participated in the Reunion Row. Our boat won not only our preliminary heat but also won the final. The icing on the cake was that my wife, Deborah, my older son, Adam, and his wife, Megan, and our grandson, Ian, were at the boat house to watch the race and I could hear Ian call out "Way to go!" on one of the videos of the race.
What piece of advice would you have for current MIT student-athletes?
Balance the tooling with other activities. Take advantage of the breadth of MIT sport and get involved!
Are you interested in being part of our "Where Are They Now?" series? If so, please complete this brief questionnaire to help us get started!