An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Exercising — Staying active by exercising is a fantastic way to maintain your health after retirement. It not only gives your well-being a boost but also allows you to live independently as you age. Now that you have more time, it’s simple to develop an exercise plan that works for your schedule.

As a part of my series about the “5 Things You Should Do to Optimize Your Wellness After Retirement” I had the pleasure of interviewing Richard J. Kramer, M.D.

A retired gastroenterologist from San Jose, California, Dr. Richard J. Kramer received his medical degree from the University of California, Irvine, School of Medicine. He practiced GI in private practice for 25 years in the San Jose/Los Gatos area before joining the GI faculty at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in 2003. Shortly after retiring in 2015, Dr. Kramer and his wife moved to Mirabella at ASU in 2021 where he discovered a mutually beneficial opportunity to both fill the retirement void he faced and help prepare students for life after graduation. Dr. Kramer is the founder and director of ASU’s fast-growing pre-med mentoring program designed to provide students with meaningful, real-life experiences.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

When I was 6 years old, I had Rheumatic Fever, which in those days (about 1953) was treated primarily with Penicillin (to which I became allergic) and bed rest. I was hospitalized right before the Christmas and New Year’s holidays and was not able to see my parents for more than two hours each day. I remember Dr. Morris Dirdack, a good friend of my parents and the physician that delivered me, took great care of me. He and the nurses became incredible role models for me and after nine months of complete bedrest, I decided that I was going to return the wonderful ability to help people by becoming a physician.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

Being a gastroenterologist, I saw incredible patients and situations. One of the most interesting stories is from when I was an attending physician at a teaching hospital associated with Stanford University. My students and I were asked to see a consultation for abnormal liver tests after repeated admissions without a diagnosis. When seeing the patient, I noticed a rash on the palms of his hands. I only had 10 days of dermatology training in medical school, which was normal, but one of the only things I remembered, was that any rash located on the palms and across the creases on your palms was Syphilis! The students had missed this completely, not having examined his skin and palms. They learned their lesson that day when the tests came back, and we cured him with a shot of Bicillin. The one thing I remembered from school helped save the patient’s life and taught the students two things: (1) to do a thorough exam and (2) nothing you learn is worthless and can be tucked in the back of your mind for later use!

Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or take-away did you learn from that?

I don’t want this to sound egocentric, but I did not, thankfully, make any mistakes at all that I know of, except for agreeing to see one patient that I regret seeing to this day. She caused me no end of grief!

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

The person that made the biggest impact on my career was my very first attending physician when I became an internal medicine resident, Dr. Michael Knauer. On the very first night of my residency, I ended up being on call and aside from not knowing anything about the hospital, my fellow residents were all reporting to me about their patients, so they could go home. I was the one responsible for covering all the patients on the internal medicine service for the next 24 hours! During that shift, I cared for 17 admissions and consulted on several ER patients, many of them quite sick with most of the patients in the ICU who were bleeding acutely from their GI tract. The next morning, 24 hours after starting my residency and my first on-call in the hospital, I had successfully written (in those days, handwritten) a resident’s admission note on every patient that I had admitted, except the last one. In addition, I saved and stopped the bleeding on all the ICU GI patients under my care. I also completed consulting on all ER patients that were requested. At 9 a.m., Dr. Knauer, my attending physician for that month, came in to make rounds with me and my two interns. After that horrible night on call for the first time, and being more than exhausted, he criticized me in front of everyone for not having written a note yet on the 17th patient that I admitted — even though I had seen the patient, stabilized them, and had written orders. He was hardnosed but taught me an incredible amount of medicine and ultimately, we became friends. It was he, who was a gastroenterologist, who convinced me to follow that career path instead of general medicine or surgery, which I was contemplating. And that led to the rest of my professional career!

What advice would you suggest to your colleagues in your industry to thrive and avoid burnout?

Balance your life. Manage your practice so you have quality time off with your family and can be there for all the important life events. Most importantly, make sure you enjoy your field and the way you are practicing your medicine! Unless a patient was so critical, I couldn’t leave, I always went home to be with my wife and kids and attended all their sports, activities, etc. Once they were in bed, I would go back and finish hospital consults, if needed. I made sure I was there for everything. You need to make time to relax, enjoy your life and escape the daily routine.

What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?

Enjoy what you are doing. There is nothing worse than waking up every morning and not loving what you do! Understand that your coworkers also have a story and on a bad day, understand that there are two sides to every story! Treat everyone like you would like to be treated!

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. From your point of view or experience, what are a few of the reasons that retirement can reduce one’s health?

Retirement can affect your psychological and physical health if you don’t exercise and keep yourself physically fit. You also need to keep your mind active by doing new things, not the same old stuff you do every day, like classes, learning new hobbies, volunteering and helping others. Those that live the longest, are usually the people involved in their community, revered for their accumulated wisdom, and adhere to a healthy diet.

Can you share with our readers 5 things that one should do to optimize mental or physical wellness after retirement? Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. Optimize Lifelong Learning — Be involved with education and mentor students, it’s a two-way street. I currently reside at a senior community on the ASU campus in Tempe, Arizona called Mirabella at ASU. An intergenerational community fueled by lifelong learning and collegiate energy, residents have access to an extensive variety of unique educational offerings including classes, activities, art and music programs and so much more. Shortly after moving in, I initiated a pre-med student mentorship program that has grown extensively over the last couple of years. They give me as much, if not more than I give in our relationship.
  2. Exercising — Staying active by exercising is a fantastic way to maintain your health after retirement. It not only gives your well-being a boost but also allows you to live independently as you age. Now that you have more time, it’s simple to develop an exercise plan that works for your schedule.
  3. Mindfulness — Retirement is supposed to bring some of the happiest years of our lives. We no longer must work every day or deal with stressful demands from our job. We can just relax and enjoy life. However, a recent study found that there is a growing trend of retirees who are unhappy in their retirement. We need to keep this unhappiness in check. This is the time of our lives we have looked forward to. Mindfulness in the form of meditation, whether that’s daily, weekly or even monthly, can help retirees achieve a relaxed state of mind and increase overall happiness.
  4. Hobbies — Having a passion — whether it’s making or collecting something, volunteering or traveling, or whatever it may be — can enhance a retiree’s mental and physical health. I have done sleight of hand and magic since I was 6 years old. Since retirement, I have taken up more of my magic and am working out a way to continue doing some of the sleight of hand, even after developing difficulty with fine movement of my fingers. I still love doing this. We also really enjoy music (I take electric vibraphone lessons; my wife, Leslie, takes piano and guitar lessons and sings in a chorus), traveling and reading. It is so important to have hobbies even while working over the years. Being able to fall back on those when retiring will bring much pleasure.
  5. Diet — While healthy eating is important at any age, as a senior, a healthy, balanced diet is more important than ever. It helps you stay active, independent and helps avoid malnutrition, which unfortunately seniors are more susceptible to. Transition to retirement is a major event followed by significant alterations at psychological and physical levels in a person’s life and it profoundly affects health. Specifically, obesity accelerates aging by shortening telomere length, compromises the immune system, and speeds up the early onset of age-related conditions, e.g. diabetes, heart disease, stroke, etc.

In your experience, what are 3 or 4 things that people wish someone told them before they retired?

  1. How much I would enjoy life. Mentoring pre-med students has given me more pleasure than one can imagine!
  2. I wish they had warned me that I would start waking up so early in the morning. I always looked forward to retirement, so I could get up when I wanted to, be able to turn over and go back to sleep if I wanted.
  3. In retirement, I have more doctor’s appointments than imaginable. This can become your social life if you aren’t careful. I wish I was more prepared for this, so I wouldn’t have fought it for so long and just accepted it as a fact of my new life!

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?

Not really. I’ve read a lot, but I think the book “The Power of One” by Bryce Courtenay made an impact on me. The ability to succeed is in everyone and not a matter of luck or life circumstance. You can put yourself in the right places at the right time and create your own luck.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would try to move people to respect each other more and learn to compromise. I’d love to bring people that are so far apart in opinions today together and guide them to a place where they are able to talk to each other civilly. I think we did a little better in years past.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

My favorite Life Lesson is: “The best job in the world is the one that you would love to wake up and do every day, even if you don’t get paid for it!” I have the ability to live this lesson today with our move to Mirabella at ASU. I have been given the opportunity to continue working with passion without concern for my income! Retirement gives you the time and chance to explore new opportunities that provide an exciting way to retire with meaning and the ability to provide all that wisdom, experience and passion we retirees can contribute to the world.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

I actually have two people that I admire and would love to meet:

  1. President Barack Obama, I think is one of the most brilliant, sincere, and educated people in the world. He is someone who really wants to make a difference!
  2. The second person I would love to spend time with is Comedian Billy Crystal. He is a remarkably intelligent, capable, funny entertainer in the world today, besides being an incredibly nice human being and family man! Oh, but to spend time eating and talking to him!

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

Richard J Kramer: 5 Things You Should Do To Optimize Your Wellness After Retirement was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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