Pitzer: The Land of Opportunities
Stuart Goldstein, M.D. ’86
Provida Futuri—While the Pitzer College motto translates to “Mindful of the Future,” for me, the “Future” implies opportunity. The opportunities Pitzer College provided me to structure my unique curriculum were unparalleled; I guess you could call me the typical atypical Pitzer student. The absence of basic College core curricula requirements allowed me to major in both chemistry and philosophy during my preparation for a career in medicine. At first glance these two areas may seem disparate, but in fact, they are quite complementary. The aim of science is to learn about the world around us through experimentation. The areas in Philosophy that became my strongest interests, logic and epistemology, or the study of how we know things to be true, formed a rigorous basis for testing my scientific methods. Furthermore, my epistemology studies shaped my outlook on the world and impact my career in academic medicine. Often philosophers and scientists can take a very cynical and Wittgensteinian approach to the world, arguing that at the most fundamental levels we cannot prove that the environment we sense around us has any basis in reality, or that you and I actually experience the same reality even if we are looking at or listening to the same thing. While this may be true, a cynical disposition is far from an enjoyable vantage point from which to conduct one’s life. Being an optimist rather than a cynic does force one to make some basic scientific assertions on faith. From these foundations, however, progress through collaboration and innovation can ensue, and the world around us is hopefully made a little better.
Another luxury Pitzer afforded me was to essentially “minor” in Literature under the benevolence of Al Wachtel. Although I did not take a single course in human psychology at Pitzer, I was fortunate to study the writings of great human condition commentators such as William Shakespeare and James Joyce. In keeping with my interest in epistemology, I wrote a paper for Al’s James Joyce class attempting to draw parallels between the language and uncertainty contained in Leopold Bloom’s journey, with the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, which shook the world of quantum physics by showing that one could not know everything about a subatomic particle at a single instant in time; if one could know all (position, speed and direction), then one would be able to predict the future. My paper and its thesis were likely specious, but Al was certainly overly magnanimous in his evaluation of the concept and effort. And, I guess it is fitting to end my reflection where I started, mindful and appreciative of the unknowable future, and grateful to Pitzer College and its faculty for providing me the opportunity to shape mine.
Stuart Goldstein, M.D., ’86 is an Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine and Medical Director, Renal Dialysis Unit and Pheresis Service, Texas Children’s Hospital. Dr. Goldstein cares for children with all forms of kidney disease and has a significant research interest in improving medical and health related quality of life outcomes for children requiring chronic dialysis and kidney transplant as well as critically ill children who receive dialysis.