It's not my story

Journal-World May 17, 2002, Friday
‘Leap of Faith’ Fulfills Medical School Graduate, Age 51, at Kansas University
By Terry Rombeck

Thirty years ago, Patricia Daniel turned down an offer to attend Vanderbilt Medical School. Instead, she married her skydiving instructor.
Now 51, Daniel is fulfilling her dream of becoming a doctor. She’ll graduate Sunday from the Kansas University School of Medicine and make the walk down Campanile Hill with an expected 4,000 members of the class of 2002. “It would’ve been a lot easier being a traditional student,” she said. “But I don’t think I would be as good a doctor because I wouldn’t understand people as well.”
Daniel, who lives in Lenexa, leaves next week to begin her residency in child and teen psychiatry at Primary Children’s Medical Center, part of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.
She doesn’t know anyone in Utah, so she figures the move is a leap of faith. That’s how she describes her return to medical school, too.
Daniel finished degrees in chemistry and biology in 1972 at Henderson State University in her native Arkansas. She planned to enter medical school at Vanderbilt University.
But then the marriage proposal came up.
“It was one of those young and foolish things,” she said.
She had a daughter – Sara Necessary, now an Air Force fighter pilot – in 1975. A few weeks later, Daniel got a divorce.
Daniel came to KU in 1978 to earn a doctorate in biochemistry. With that degree, she worked stints at laboratories in Massachusetts and New Jersey, and in 1990 she came to LabOne in Lenexa.
In 1995, she became the company’s senior vice president, making more money than she will as a physician, she said. That same year she married David Daniel. She thought she had finally settled down.
That all changed when she returned from a business trip in 1998. When she walked in the door, her husband had a set of medical school applications waiting on the table for her.
“My first reaction was I was too old,” Daniel said. “That’s fine and dandy, but I missed the boat.”
Her husband immediately called the KU Medical School admissions office and asked if there was an age limit for students. No, there wasn’t, they told him.
She considered his proposal, and decided to return to school after hearing a priest speak while on vacation in the Cayman Islands.
“He talked about using your talents and gifts,” Daniel said. “I thought, LabOne is a great company, but I couldn’t say I was changing people’s lives.”
Daniel said she was concerned about being so much older than the other medical school students. She attended classes with students who had graduated from high school with her daughter, and one of her friend’s sons served as a lab partner.
But she said acceptance never was an issue. She was elected to the Medical School Assembly four years.
“I feel like I’m just another member of the Class of 2002,” she said.
Ivan Damjanov, professor of pathology at KU, said Daniel had served as a mentor for many of her fellow students.
“It’s a different perspective people of her stature and age have,” he said. “At a medical school, I think it’s very important to have variety. Each of the students has a different background and brings something else to the table. She’s extremely organized. She’s helped other students go through the hurdles of medical school.”
Although Daniel admits completing medical school would’ve been easier 30 years ago, she says she doesn’t regret her decision.
“I can’t regret anything I did in my life,” she said. “It all led me to this point.”

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Hi folks,
This is a very nice story but I will relate the story of my classmate John. John graduated from Yale University with an undergraduate degree in physics. He never used the degree but entered the ministry. He pastored a church and in the intervening years, married and had four lovely children. As the years went by, John’s wife of 25 years discovered that she carried the gene for breast cancer. It was researching information about his wife’s condition that sparked interest in medical school for Rev. John.
He took the MCAT and was accepted at Howard University College of Medicine which is where I met him. When we met, the first thing he asked me was my age. I was so sure that at age 46, I would be the oldest student in class but John was 50. So this year, at age 54, John walked across the stage, and picked up his MD degree. He is headed for a residency in family practice and will practice on a Native American reservation in Arizona once he is done with residency.
Last year, while John was struggling with going from third to fourth year, his son was killed after a fall from the roof of a building at Boston University. The whole class rallied around our “elder statesman” in his time of need. Sometimes, your medical school class does become your family. John preached his son’s funeral and it was great.
My best memory of graduation was the standing ovation as Reverend John with his long blond beard and graying hair, walked across the stage and picked up his diploma. The tassel on his hat kept getting tangled in his beard! Way to go, Reverend John! :D