Reconnecting through the JOFO… David Barlas

Reconnecting through the JOFO… David Barlas

The Josephine Foundation’s mission is to bring together people with a common interest so they can work together and achieve great things. Sometimes, though, something happens that goes beyond that – like what happened at the JOFO Gala a few years back.

At the annual Gala at the Crest Hollow Country Club, the Queens Starlight Orchestra was playing their sublime medley of hits and the gathered crowd was loving it. I used to play “big band” trumpet in high school myself, so I was checking out the band up close. A sax player up front looked vaguely familiar to me, but I couldn’t place him at first. Then, during a set break I figured it out. I said, “Dean, is that you?”

“Dave?!”

Right then, we went back 24 years to 1992. I first met Dean Saghafi when we were newly minted doctors starting our internship year at SUNY Stony Brook University Hospital. He was doing internal medicine and I was in emergency medicine, and we shared a lot of experiences treating patients young and old, sick and sicker, and remembered many days that didn’t seem to end. Dean was memorable to all of us back then because he was so outgoing, he always came over to help you, and he clearly exuded a love of music. We got through that first year in one piece, and was surprised and saddened to find out that Dean had chosen to leave and pursue other interests. I completed the remainder of my training and we unfortunately fell out of touch.

As fate would have it, we met and reconnected on that night like it was 1992 again, and I was glad to learn that Dean had followed his dream to do the two things he loves most – teaching (honors biology) and living his dream (leading a jazz band – a really good jazz band). More importantly, Dean had remained just as outgoing and high-spirited as when we had last worked together.

The story comes full circle when Dean invited me to visit his honors biology club at Lincoln High School in Yonkers. Many of his students are aiming for a career in medicine, and I was privileged to give them a firsthand account about the ups and downs of life as a physician. They had a lot of questions about the process, the education, and the career that really impressed me and I hope I inspired them to keep following their dreams. Dean was mentoring a truly bright group students and could tell that many of them were headed towards a bright future.

If that doesn’t embody the spirit of the Josephine Foundation, I don’t know what does!

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