A Heart For Adventure
Distinguished cardiologist lives life to the fullest and delights in giving to others
"I am a dinosaur with the latest generation 4G iPhone," quips Arnold W. Goldschlager, M.D.
A consulting cardiologist for Mills-Peninsula Health Services since 1970, Dr. Goldschlager enjoys a remarkable career that spans five decades of amazing medical advances and a life brimming with adventure.
"I have been fortunate to witness this art, this science called medicine, from the horse and buggy days to the space age," he says.
This heart doctor is also an avid boater, supporter of the arts, writer, expert marksman and world-class sportsman, having hunted across six different continents and completed 10 African safaris.
Still in active practice at age 74, with offices in Burlingame and Daly City, Dr. Goldschlager shows no sign of slowing down. He has dedicated his life to helping people battle high blood pressure, high cholesterol, congestive heart failure and many other forms of heart disease.
Now, through a $100,000 philanthropic gift to the Mills-Peninsula Hospital Foundation dedicated to the Dorothy E. Schneider Cancer Center, Dr. Goldschlager also will be helping people fight cancer - an act inspired by his own life-threatening experience.
A Rich Half-Century
Board-certified in internal medicine and cardiovascular disease, Dr. Goldschlager received his undergraduate degree at Union College in New York in 1959 and his medical degree at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. He performed his residency at Columbia University, Bellevue Division, and his fellowships in cardiology at Mount Sinai Hospital and the University of California, San Francisco.
In 1970, Dr. Goldschlager became a member of the UCSF clinical faculty where he still continues to teach as an associate clinical professor.
He also served as chief of medicine in the United States Air Force at Selfridge Air Force Base in Michigan.
Among his distinguished professional accomplishments, Dr. Goldschlager is one of the founders of Air Ambulance, Inc. in Hawaii and California, and has served on its board for a decade. His resume also includes an extensive list of societies, honors, publications and clinical trials.
Dr. Goldschlager is married to Nora Fox, M.D., a distinguished academic cardiologist and a full professor at UCSF. Celebrating their 51st anniversary this June, the couple has two daughters: Hilary, a paramedic and swim coach, and Nina, a science editor at a major scientific publishing house.
Looking back at how medicine was practiced 40 years ago, Dr. Goldschlager says, "I remember how we would agonize over a patient with 'unclear' abdominal pain, examining the abdomen over and over, rechecking lab tests, ultimately having to decide if the patient needed to go to surgery."
In those times, he explains, a doctor depended heavily on clinical judgment - a keenly advanced sense of touch, sight, sound and smell gradually sharpened over hundreds of hours listening to the body and learning its subtleties.
Today, advanced imaging technology allows doctors to peer inside their patients to make their diagnoses. While Dr. Goldschlager has welcomed these advances into his own practice, "a doctor's clinical judgment is still the critical factor in patient care," he says.
Other technological leaps that have improved medical care that Dr. Goldschlager has witnessed in his career include: electrical cardioversion to treat atrial and ventricular fibrillation; implantable cardiac pacemakers and defibrillators; balloon angioplasty; coronary stents; ablation of arrhythmias; coronary angiography; cardiac surgery; and the development of cardiac ultrasound and nuclear and magnetic resonance techniques.
He has also been fortunate to have known and worked with many of the pioneers of these remarkable advances.
"It's been an exciting ride to see and participate in the evolution of medicine over the last half century," he says. "The medical world is now a better place as our diagnoses and treatments have become more precise."
Commitment to Giving
In addition to their generous gifts to Mills-Peninsula Hospital Foundation, the Goldschlagers also are active supporters of the Mzuri Wildlife Foundation, Union and Barnard Colleges, the San Francisco Symphony and numerous local theatre and ballet companies.
Peninsula Health met recently with Dr. Goldschlager to find out more about his commitment to philanthropy and what fuels his zest for life.
PH: Why is philanthropy an important part of your life?
AWG: I'm a Jewish kid from the lower east side of New York. My parents were not college-educated, and I started out in life with very little. But they taught me the tradition of philanthropy. The Hebrew word for it is "tzedakah" which means "charity." So in our house, there was a tzedakah box - a little piggy bank. No matter how poor you were, we believed that there was always something you could give. That's how I grew up and, to this day, for Nora and me, giving back is a part of life.
PH:Why did you choose to make this gift to the Dorothy E. Schneider Cancer Center at Mills-Peninsula?
AWG:Recently I was headed to Cabo San Lucas for a family getaway. But a few days before the trip, I became ill. It hit me out of the blue like a bolt of lightning. I thought I had a tonsil abscess. Instead, it turned out to be a tonsil lymphoma. Suddenly my airway began closing off. I couldn't eat or swallow. One minute I was going on vacation; the next I was at Mills-Peninsula fighting for my life. Stephen Weller, M.D., was already treating me for prostate cancer and immediately focused on this life-threatening lymphoma. If I hadn't been treated as quickly and effectively as I was, there is no doubt in my mind that I would not have survived. So I'm glad that our gift will go toward funding the purchase of a new PET/CT scan which will help our oncologists save even more lives.
PH: Why did you choose Mills-Peninsula to be treated for prostate cancer, as well as your lymphoma?
AWG: I'm a doctor. I could have gone anywhere for my treatment. Between Nora and me, we have connections to the oncology departments at UCSF as well as Stanford. But I chose to stay at Mills-Peninsula because I have practiced here for 43 years, and I know the quality of our oncologists and radiation professionals. Also, at this point in time, our cancer center has the same modern technology and care equal to any university. However, I must add that if we want to continue to maintain our facility, the community needs to open up their hearts and wallets and fund it.
PH: Do you think that will happen?
AWG: I hope so. This community has always had a tradition of giving. The Mills-Peninsula Hospital Foundation was established by generous, caring people in San Mateo County over 100 years ago. I know there are still people here who are willing to give small dollars and big dollars in order to continue to have a community health care facility that is state-of-the-art. Technology is advancing so quickly that if you're not on the edge, you're behind.
PH: In this issue we're addressing men's health. As a doctor, what's your best medical advice for men?
AWG:See your doctor regularly and be sure you undergo screening for the common cancers which affect men most - prostate, colon and lung cancer - as well as screening for the cardiac risk factors which include hypertension, cholesterol and diabetes.
PH: What about a man's emotional and spiritual health? Any advice there?
AWG: Life is like a table with four legs. You need to be passionate about each leg - your job, family, faith and some sort of recreation or hobby. Then you need to maintain the balance between all four.
PH: Have you been able to achieve that balance yourself?
AWG: I admit I was a workaholic for over 30 years. But I managed to balance my life with twin passions of sailing and hunting. My sense of adventure still prevails. My most recent experiences in the past two months include completing a gun skills course in operating the Uzi submachine gun and "bare boat" sailing on a 46-foot catamaran on a 10-day trip in the Caribbean. I'm very fortunate. So far, mine has been a life well lived. And I look forward to more journeys ahead. PH
Arnold W. Goldschlager, M.D., Community Involvement
Mzuri Wildlife Foundation, Board of Directors, 2013 - present
Oncology Council, Mills-Peninsula Hospital Foundation, 2012 - present
Mzuri Safari Club, Board of Directors, 2012 - present
Tinsley Island, St. Francis Yacht Club, Board of Directors, 2011 - present
Rich Island Duck Club, Board of Directors, 2009 - present
Safari Club International, Bay Area Chapter, Board of Directors, 1995 - 2000
Air Ambulance, Inc., Board of Directors, 1976 - 1986