As part of a lifestyle and aging series, we’re working with renowned photographer Terry Lorant to showcase inspirational leaders in the industry. Each month, we’ll feature one or a few inspirational member(s) of the Amazing Care Network community who is using his or her voice to empower others in the collective aging experience. Read, in their own words, what the Amazing Care Network’s efforts mean to them.
This month, we’re proud to feature ACN Member David Bailey.
Q: To start, please tell us a bit about your work, perhaps with an emphasis on what seemed most important to you at the beginning of your career and how that has that evolved. What are your most important points of focus now?
DB: There is a long and a short story to my career. Here’s the long version:
Currently, I hold two positions at the University of California, San Diego. I am the Deputy Dean in the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences and the Vice-Chair of Education and Academic Affairs in the School of Medicine. As Deputy Dean I teach medical students and residents, and a bit of clinical work. In the Vice-Chair role, I mentor faculty and complete faculty appointments, merits and promotion. I am retired, but work full-time – that’s a paradox to begin with!
I joined UCSD in 1977 as an Assistant Professor which makes me a fossil of this institution. During my time at UCSD I held a number of different positions. I am a pathologist by trade which some people think means I performed autopsies and did forensic pathology like in NCIS and those types of programs. I was a clinical pathologist so I dealt mostly with laboratories. Five years later, I became the Director of Clinical Laboratories which meant that I oversaw all clinical labs at UCSD; everything from the blood bank to chemistry and even microbiology.
After that and for the next 14 years, I was the Chair of the Department of Pathology. I went on to become the Vice Chancellor for Health and Sciences, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Deputy Dean and Acting Dean of the School of Medicine. I find it funny that each time I accepted a new role, I was told, “just do it for a little while in the ‘acting’ role”, but ended up becoming the permanent fixture. By then I thought to myself, “well, I’ve done so much Administration, perhaps I should try something else.” So I went up to UC Irvine where I was Vice- Chancellor for Health Affairs and Dean of the School of Medicine. Upon completion of that chapter in my career in 2009, I thought well, that’s it. So I retired.
For arcane and byzantine reasons the University of California allows retirees like me to return at 43 percent time. I wanted to return to UCSD so I did. I donate the other 57 percent of my time.
The short version of my career path is, “I’m always reinventing myself and moving.”
Q: How did you cross paths with the Amazing Care Network, and what about it speaks to you, personally and professionally?
DB: I like the Amazing Care concept primarily because it emphasizes to people the need to be thinking about their future. It forces and emphasizes the importance of planning and setting money aside. Often, particularly for people that are young (or younger than I am!) thoughts about planning for retirement are not top of mind. When I was young I thought I was impervious to life events, such as retirement, aging or illness.
As I migrated more and more into Administration I realized how very important it was and I’m still struck by the fact that people don’t think about it. The Amazing Care Network is getting that message out there. People need to take charge of their future. This is the nice thing with this plan, It’s entirely flexible, the savings don’t always have to be used for healthcare. People can use those savings for other things at a later time. I think it’s a wonderful concept. Cora Tellez (founder of Amazing Care Network) is one of the most entrepreneurial, energetic and visionary people that I know.
Q: Have you had any personal experiences around caregiving or trying to figure out some of these issues that you’re willing to share?
DB: There have been many, but the first major one was in the 1980s when my father was terminally ill. He had liver cancer and it’s deadly. Surgery doesn’t really help, although nowadays they can do some lobe resections, but it’s not a good prognosis. We had hospice in the house and it was very hard on my mother. While she may have had it better than some because she did not have to work and could be at home, it was nonetheless very trying for her. I was already in California, and the family was in Indiana. I was the chair of the department which would allow me to go back there quite frequently. My mother was the caregiver and then hospice would come in to relieve her.
Then in about 2000, my mother manifested the signs of Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease runs in our family. My mother’s situation was quite tragic; she could not communicate and she could not even move. We ended up gradually depleting her resources, sold the house, and then she went on to Medicaid. I took care of the payments and monitoring everything. We had her moved into a wonderful assisted living facility. As she went downhill we had her moved into the nursing part of the same facility. She didn’t have to change. She was one of the lucky ones. I’ve watched many others not so fortunate and helped others through their turmoils.
Q: Any particular advice from your experience? It’s such a complicated thing to have to navigate, figuring out how to move finances around, where to look for the kind of support you need…
DB: Find your key subject matter experts. I found social workers and case manager to be very helpful. I know the laws out here, not so much in Indiana. I found a wonderful person in the state of Indiana who helped with the Medicaid and the Social Security. She was a wealth of information and very helpful.
I think it’s very important for seniors, particularly seniors who are not in optimum health to begin thinking about and looking at retirement communities early on. We have some long-term family friends who went through this ordeal with us. They are about my age and they’re in good health and they are now moving to independent living at this same facility. They’re moving into independent living now and when the time is right they can move to assisted living, the nursing unit etcetera. They are healthy and doing the planning, perhaps they learned a lesson from watching my mother transition from home to facility.
Reach out early to social workers, reach out early to retirement communities before you are forced to. So many people say, “well, I can live in my home”, and if you can that’s great, but it is very hard. It’s very expensive. After thinking about that, you have to develop your own mental and emotional way of dealing with it.
“Compartmentalize.” Meaning, you have these set of issues here. Don’t let it overwhelm your ability to do other things in your life. So many people live in one silo and they become incapacitated. They cannot do anything else. So work with things in silos, compartmentalize. Realize that you’ll overcome the situation. I’ve never in my life encountered a situation that isn’t time limited. As they say, time heals all wounds and it is true. Sometimes the healing I hate to say it, is death. That’s the ultimate; it’s the ultimate end. It’s so easy to become cynical. So I tell people, do not become cynical. So many people say life is against me and they become very bitter and they make life miserable for those around them. I believe that you need to believe in the inherent good of people. In this day and age we so often see such fighting and bickering going on at all levels. You need to realize that people are inherently good. If you have that, you will get through it.
The other thing I found helpful is to write out a plan. No problem is unsolvable. When I have a plan it gives me security because I feel like I have a solution thought through. The plan may change a little bit as I move through it because if step one doesn’t go the way I think, then I’ll have to re-approach the decision. I find that very helpful. When I counsel people or mentor people who come with problems I say well, let’s make a plan. If you don’t have a plan you just allow yourself to be thrown from side to side. You will not get through it easily.
Q: What’s your primary focus right now personally and professionally?
DB: The most important thing to me, and it’s even more pronounced now is helping other people, mentoring and guiding people particularly into successful careers. It gives me tremendous joy. I still love teaching the medical students, and I’ve taught since 1977. Though the areas are the same, some of the facts will change as we update, as medicine refreshes itself. I tell my students I’ll probably learn more than they will through our experiences.
Before retirement we always had to publish the science and be in scientific literature. I have time to write more philosophical pieces right now.
I also do Oriental Tapestries. I’ve done dozens of them including huge wall hangings. One of them, probably my best one, took 15 years off and on to do because during that time I was also Vice Chancellor and Dean. And, I have a hundred and two year old Steinway piano, made in December 1917. I love to select music, work on pieces that I’ve never done and when I can’t do it any better I will record. I’m an avid reader, only nonfiction, I figure life is interesting. Right now I’m reading Oliver Sacks’, Everything In Its Place, First Love and Last Tales.
And finally, next week I’m going with friends to Europe. I will be traveling with the family friends that just decided to move into retirement living. This will be their last trip before they move into the retirement living!